11 things people with PTSD want you to know

Posted September 21

Post-traumatic stress disorder will affect 7-8 percent of the U.S. population at some point in the lives. About 8 million adults per year in the U.S. will have PTSD. With those statistics, it's important we all listen to what the people around you with PTSD are trying to say:

It doesn't just happen to people in the military

PTSD can manifest in any person following a traumatic experience or event. Members of the military experience and witness traumatic things in combat, making them more susceptible to PTSD. However, other traumatic experiences that can cause PTSD include sexual assault, physical or verbal abuse, car accidents, and even surgeries and dental work, according to psychologist Peter A. Levine, PhD, author of Waking the Tiger: Healing Trauma.

It’s not something that we can will-power ourselves out of

The reason we have flashbacks, nightmares, extreme sadness, numbness or any of the numerous other symptoms is because our brains have not properly processed the traumatic event yet. During flashbacks and nightmares, we are reliving the traumatic experience as our brains attempt to make sense of the events. If we could stop it or snap out of it, we would, but our brains are driving and we can’t seem to find the override switch.

Not every person with PTSD will have the same symptoms

For some people, PTSD typically manifests as flashbacks or angry outbursts. For others,it's being on constant red-alert in every situation. For others still, it can manifest as dissociation, or disconnection from oneself, one’s emotions or surroundings.

We see the world differently than we did before the trauma

PTSD is not caused by worrying about what might happen to us, but by being unable to move past things that have already happened. We’ll see things differently because the world has shown us things we never wanted to see.

We don’t want you to understand

The only way you could understand what we’re going through is if you experienced it yourself, and we would never wish that on anyone. We just want you to be there with us.

There is no time limit on PTSD

Unlike the common cold, you cannot expect PTSD to clear itself up in a set amount of time. There will be progress, and there will be relapse. There will be good days, weeks and maybe months, but there will also be bad days mixed in.

We won’t be strong every day

Some days will be better than others. Some days, we may seem like the person we were before the trauma. Other days, the things that happen in the world make it impossible for us to get out of bed.

We can become symptomatic at any time

There is usually a trigger, but we can’t always identify what it is. We can go from perfectly calm to angry screaming in minutes with no visible cause other than our brains digging out memories we don’t know how to process. We’re not trying to cause a scene and we’re not making things up to ditch our responsibilities. We deal with the symptoms as they come, and sometimes they come at inconvenient times.

There’s not much we wouldn’t try to make it go away

That’s why there are so many more people who have problems with substance abuse after a traumatic event. Studies show that people with PTSD are more likely to be diagnosed with substance use disorder. Substance abuse and self-harm are methods many people use to try and escape emotional pain or reconnect with their bodies and physical surroundings.

We’ll probably be distant, but we still want to be loved

We’ve seen some of the worst things this world has to offer. This understandably makes us a little hesitant to associate with the world in general. But we’re still human. We still want companionship. We still want closeness. Our brains just sometimes misinterpret these good things as dangerous things. But please, keep loving us.

We’re still us.

We’re still the people you loved before trauma happened. We might have different fears. We might dislike some of the things we used to love. We might not be able to express ourselves the way we used to. But we’re still the people you share memories with. We’re still the people you celebrate the good times with. We’re still the people who love you and we want to spend time with you.


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