When people think of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), they often imagine soldiers returning from combat or refugees fleeing war zones.
The truth is, people can experience several kinds of traumatic events throughout their lives. It's very common for folks who live through child neglect, abusive relationships, and car accidents to suffer PTSD.
Although it's not discussed nearly as often, PTSD from natural disasters often manifests after events like the Santa Rosa wildfires, Louisiana flood, and other catastrophic incidents.
But how do you know if you have PTSD? What are the symptoms of PTSD and how can you find the help you deserve?
Aurora Santa Rosa Hospital is here to help you figure it out and begin your recovery.
PTSD from Natural Disasters is Very Common
First responders are particularly vulnerable to developing PTSD from natural disasters because they fight on the front lines battling the blaze.
Many people may not realize that firefighters frequently pay the ultimate sacrifice. In 2013, over 30 firefighters from Prescott, Arizona died – a 20-year high. The survivors face a long road of PTSD.
A Growing Trend
It doesn't help that natural disasters are on the rise due to climate change. This means that PTSD from natural disasters like floods and fires isn't going to slow down – quite the opposite.
Although first responders face the most risk for developing PTSD, the civilian population is not immune. Natural disasters are major traumas many people will, fortunately, never experience. It's hard to understand the pressure, fear, and uncertainty of fleeing your home due to a catastrophic event completely out of your control unless you experience it first-hand.
According to the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, wildfires are particularly traumatic because of the uncertainty: they spread quickly, evacuation happens with short notice, and they affect large regions. Natural disasters like wildfires force community members to make crucial yet snap decisions regarding their wellbeing and safety.
How to Know if You Have PTSD
If you've recently survived a traumatic event, like the Santa Rosa wildfire, you are probably wondering how to tell if you have PTSD.
Trauma takes many forms and affects everyone differently. This is why it's so important to understand the risk factors, PTSD symptoms, and how to take action. Here's how to know if you have PTSD so you can arm yourself with knowledge before reaching out for help.
How Do You Know if You Have PTSD? Know the Risk Factors
The trauma itself can often cause a person to develop PTSD. However, most risk factors involve environmental conditions after the event occurs. Therefore, seeking proper mental health treatment after a natural disaster like the Santa Rosa wildfire is so important.
- Surviving a trauma
- Suffering physical injuries from the trauma
- Seeing a dead body or other people get hurt during the wildfire or trauma
- Previous exposure to trauma during childhood like abuse or neglect
- Feelings of hopelessness or fear
- Lacking a social support system after the fire or trauma
- A personal history of other mental health conditions or substance abuse
- Ongoing stressors after the fire or natural disaster occurs.
"Ongoing stressors" can take many forms after a traumatic event. After surviving a wildfire this may include
- Remaining away from your home for weeks before you can return to assess the damage
- Lack of materials, time, and money to rebuild your home
- Staying with family members or in a stressful environment while you look for a new place to live
- Losing a job or income
- Relocating children to another school district
- Physical health complications from the fire
"How Do I Know if I Have PTSD?" Understand the Wide Range of PTSD Symptoms
If you fit some of the risk factors above, it's important to know what PTSD symptoms look like. No one experiences or reacts to trauma in the same way. Plus, all types of trauma are different. Look for these PTSD symptoms after a natural disaster.
- Reliving the trauma through flashbacks. This can include physical symptoms like a racing heart.
- Bad dreams or fearful thoughts
- Feeling on edge most of the time
- Sleep disturbances or insomnia
- Irritability or outbursts
- Trouble remembering the event
- Blaming yourself for bad things that happened during the event
- Losing interest in activities you once enjoyed
What to Do Next if You Think You Have PTSD
Although it's tempting to grin and bear it through your trauma, this is a big mistake. Taking a proactive approach is crucial for treating PTSD. Untreated PTSD can often manifest in other ways many years down the road such as depression, anxiety, and substance abuse disorder.
How you respond to trauma is crucial for your recovery. There's no "right way" to deal with PTSD: it requires a personalized and individual approach. Some key factors can reduce your PTSD symptoms or risk for developing the disorder in the first place.
- Focus on keeping up with your daily routine.
- Turn off the T.V. – don't watch the news coverage.
- Reach out to people you trust for support.
- Consider signing up for volunteer efforts.
- Find a local support group. Missing Elements meets in Santa Rosa.
- Contact a mental health facility for inpatient or outpatient treatment options.
Wondering How to Tell if You Have PTSD from Natural Disasters? Aurora Santa Rosa Hospital Can Help
If you're asking yourself "how do I know if I have PTSD," Aurora Santa Rosa Hospital is here to help. We offer several treatment programs for adults and adolescents suffering from PTSD, substance abuse, and other mental health conditions.
Our treatment programs offer a multidisciplinary approach that gives you the tools you need to overcome PTSD, anxiety, depression, and other symptoms. We offer inpatient, partial hospitalization, and intensive outpatient treatment options to meet your specific individual needs.