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Unresolved trauma can lead to PTSD

  • Published
  • By Airman 1st Class Isa Graham
  • 20th Fighter Wing Public Affiars

It is just another routine day with the same route to work, place to eat and office conversations until it is suddenly interrupted by a sound, smell or familiar face that triggers a flood of overwhelming emotions.


Days like this can be common for people who suffer from the physical, mental and emotional effects of post-traumatic stress disorder.


“A trauma is defined by any event where somebody’s life, bodily autonomy or freedom is really threatened whether that is from violence, sexual assault or any situation that poses a threat,” said Capt. Lukas Maier, 20th Medical Group clinical psychologist.


According to the National Center for PTSD, nearly half of the U.S. population will experience at least one traumatic event in their lifetime, but only about 7-8% will develop PTSD.


 It is normal for someone to experience certain symptoms after trauma, but help should be consulted if symptoms continue after a few months.


Maier says the four symptoms expected are: re-experiencing traumatic events, avoidance, heightened arousal and negative thoughts or moods.


Reliving the event is often characterized by an unwanted memory or flashback triggered by seeing, hearing or smelling something that reminds a person of their trauma.


Avoidance is staying away from anything that mirrors the situation as well as using distractions such as substance abuse or increasing time spent on activities that bypass potential triggers.


Sudden rushes of anger, irritability, jitters and staying alert for any dangers are categorized as heightened arousal. Something as mundane as a loud noise can set these off.


Experiencing trauma may also result in adverse emotional effects such as overwhelming guilt and loss of trust and happiness around loved ones.


Maier went on to say, “Most people experience those symptoms after a trauma and eventually they will start to recover. We view PTSD as a condition where recovery hasn’t happened yet.”


Every person with PTSD experiences and reacts to different types of triggers. One Shaw Airman explained how certain triggers can result in negative thoughts and moods.   


“I become very protective of others, but it is masked with an extreme, uncontrollable and unrelenting desire for violence,” said the Airman. “I get so mad that I start shaking and become on the verge of tears. My breathing gets heavy and I can hardly think straight.”  


There are many resources available for people looking for help concerning mental health issues such as the 20th MDG mental health clinic, the behavioral health optimization program at Shaw and the Veterans Crisis Line.


Maier said there are providers at the 20th MDG mental health clinic who love and enjoy helping others and by addressing prolonged symptoms early, PTSD treatment will be more effective and prevent problems down the road from occurring.