PTSD: The Facts

PTSD: The Facts

For those of us who have not experienced Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), understanding the difference between an acutely stressful time and having the disorder can be confusing. Everyone faces difficult and frightening situations throughout life to varying degrees. Though over time the emotional impact of these experiences usually fade, PTSD can last much longer and can have serious consequences on one’s life. 

Events that are categorized as traumatic generally fall under the categories of crimes, natural disasters, accidents, war, conflict, or other life-threatening circumstances. The most common forms of trauma resulting in PTSD include the unexpected death of a loved one, sexual assault, and seeing someone badly injured or killed. Many of those affected re-experience the traumatic event through nightmares or flashbacks. Common symptoms include startling easily, difficulty concentrating, irritability, sleep problems, numbness, detachment, and a sense of impending doom even in safe situations. 

Interestingly, not all people who suffer trauma experience PTSD, and not everyone with PTSD has experienced trauma first hand. An event happening to a loved one rather than yourself can also lead to the disorder. For those who have experienced trauma, there are various reasons why some people are affected differently than others. These include the length of time the trauma lasted, the number of other traumatic experiences in one’s life, their reaction to the event, and the kind of support they received afterwards.

One study found that Canada has the highest incidence of PTSD in the 24 countries examined. 9.2 percent of Canadians will suffer from PTSD in their lifetimes. The Netherlands, Australia and the US followed. Nigeria, China and Romania had the lowest levels. While the prevalence rate of lifetime PTSD in Canada is approximately 9.2%, a rate of current (1-month) PTSD is about 2.4%. The commonality of this disorder in Canada is surprising, given that our country experiences comparably low rates of violent crime, has a small military and few natural disasters. However, recent studies have shown that people who live in wealthier countries have higher rates of PTSD. It is believed that this is linked to a violation of expectation – when you are expecting a certain level of safety, the consequences feel more severe. Within a given country, those who face social, economic or educational disadvantages or racism are more likely to get PTSD. 

PTSD affects women at twice the rate that it does men. In the United States, almost 10 percent of women face it at some point in their lives, compared to 4 percent of men. A factor in this can be linked to the fact that women experience sexual assault much more commonly than men. As well, military personnel, first responders (police, firefighters, and paramedics), doctors, and nurses experience higher rates of PTSD than other professions.

PTSD is a global health crisis that affects nearly 10 percent of our country’s population. If you or someone you know may be suffering, we encourage you to reach out to your healthcare professional as soon as possible. 

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