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PTSD a four letter word we shouldn't be afraid to use

  • Published
  • By Maj. Luke Michels and Capt. Jeremy Pallas
  • 6th Medical Operations Squadron Mental Health Flight
Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, or PTSD, is a four letter "word" that we should not be afraid to say in public. For many people, their knowledge of PTSD is limited to media or movie portrayals like the "The Hurt Locker."

It is important that as a community we go beyond these accounts and become educated on the symptoms and treatment of PTSD. Congress has designated June 27 as National PTSD Awareness Day, and the month of June has been identified as PTSD Awareness Month.

Since one in 29 Americans are affected by this condition, it is vital that we as a community are sensitive to the impact of PTSD and are aware of the available resources and treatment options.

PTSD can develop after exposure to a traumatic event or distressing event; to include combat exposure, sexual or physical abuse or assault, a car accident or a natural disaster. Not everyone who experiences events like these develop PTSD, however it is important to know what signs to look out for, as seeking help early on can speed up recovery.

In May 2013, the American Psychiatric Association updated PTSD diagnostic criteria. In assessing for PTSD, doctors are looking at four main areas of impact: unpleasant recollections of the event, avoidance of people, places or activities associated with the event, negative changes in thinking and mood and trouble with sleep or concentration, angry outbursts, an exaggerated startle response or both.

This list does not account for all the associated PTSD symptoms. If you recognize some of these symptoms in yourself or someone you know, and the problems are impacting occupational, social or family dynamics, it would be worthwhile to consider your options for help.

The good news is that there are effective treatments for PTSD and the condition does not have to continue to impair your ability to function.

If you are looking for information, a good starting point would be to visit the Department of Veteran Affairs National Center for PTSD website at The site provides an array of education on the topic.

Some are uncomfortable talking with a doctor about these problems, but if you are prepared to discuss your concerns contact your PCM, or active duty personnel can contact the MacDill Mental Health Clinic at 827-9170 to schedule an appointment. At your visit you will be offered an assessment that can provide feedback on your symptoms and a personalized recommendation for any indicated treatment. If you are eligible for services through the Veterans Affairs (VA), you can obtain treatment locally through the Bay Pines VA Healthcare System or James A. Haley Veterans' Hospital. VA Vet Centers (locations in Clearwater and Tampa) also offer counseling services for individuals and their family member who have served in any combat zone and received a military campaign ribbon.

During this month we challenge the MacDill community to learn about the symptoms of PTSD and ask yourself how you can help reduce the barriers and stigma for those seeking help.