PROVO (ABC4 Utah News) - An estimated 8% of Americans, over 24 million people, suffer from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, a condition most closely associated with combat veterans.
Dr. Todd Thatcher, Chief Medical Officer at Valley Behavioral Health explains.
"We know that PTSD symptoms have existed at least in combat literature going back to the Revolutionary War," Dr. Thatcher said. "They used to call it Shell Shock, Combat Heart, certainly affected people coming out of Vietnam."
Dr. Thatcher says PTSD can affect civilians as well, actually anyone who has endured trauma.
"There's a difference in PTSD between a single trauma event so a car wreck, maybe an explosion, maybe a shooting, something like that," Dr. Thatcher said. "And people who have gone through multiple such traumas for example the sexual abuse, women who have been battered or even men who have been battered and have been in abusive relationships."
Amber Swartz is a Utah County mother of two who says the aftermath of experiencing trauma left her withdrawn, isolated and suffering frequent panic attacks.
"I would have nightmares, and flashbacks, things like that," Swartz told ABC4 Utah News. "I would wake up with these emotions and I would essentially be in a full blow panic attack stuck. This looked like me being hunched in, curled up in a corner, I would shake like my hands and I couldn't really perceive what was going on around me. I was stuck in my mind."
"When you are reminded of a trauma you panic, your fight or flight system gets going even though there's not a threat present," Dr. Thatcher explained. "When you get those memories going, you get in a loop and you can't get out of it."
Swartz says that's exactly what happens to her.
"I tend to get stuck in this emotional moment that I can't get out of," she said. "I felt like I had no power to control me or my situation...It was horrible to realize I had completely lost myself."
Dr. Thatcher says people with PTSD don't have to suffer. Treatment is readily available and effective.
"We have several tools at our disposal," he said. "They break down into two broad categories. One would be psychotherapy. The other would be medications."
Swartz says the keys to managing her PTSD have been yoga, meditation, spirituality and a lot of cognitive behavioral therapy.
"Because of the therapy, because of the things that I have been taught and I've been practicing, I've been able to cope with these instances much better than I used to be able to," she said.
She now recognizes her emotions and uses breathing and posture techniques to address them before they overwhelm her.
"I am stronger than my fear," Swartz said. "That helps control it. It doesn't help erase it but it does give me control that I desperately need to deal with the situation."
Control that allows her to be a student, an artist and a mother rather than a victim.
If you or someone you know is experiencing symptoms of PTSD, the following organizations have resources available:
Utah Department of Veteran's Affairs
500 Foothill Drive
Salt Lake City, UT 84148
Veteran's Affairs PTSD Hotline
1–800–273–TALK/8255, press 1
Valley Behavioral Health
Salt Lake County: 888-949-4864
Summit County: 435-649-8347
Tooele County: 435-843-3520
Salt Lake Behavioral Health
University of Utah Health Department
Contact Teresa Stocks
Manager Medical Wellness Program
Utah Domestic Violence Hotline
PTSD Screening Test
PTSD Test | Mental Health America
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