This month, the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) is raising awareness for Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). PTSD is a mental health disorder that begins after a traumatic event, which may involve a real or perceived threat of injury or death. This can include: a natural disaster like an earthquake or tornado, military combat, physical or sexual assault or abuse, or other accidents. The VA estimates that about 8 million people in the United States currently suffer from PTSD.
PTSD used to be called “shell shock” or “battle fatigue” because it often affects war veterans. According to the National Center for PTSD, it’s estimated that about 15 percent of Vietnam War veterans and 12 percent of Gulf War veterans have PTSD.
But PTSD can happen to anyone at any age. It occurs as a response to chemical and neuronal changes in the brain after exposure to threatening events. Having PTSD doesn’t mean you’re flawed or weak.
Symptoms of PTSD fall into four groups: intrusion (flashbacks, unpleasant memories, nightmares, or distress), avoidance, arousal/reactivity (trouble concentrating, startle response, feeling on edge, irritability, or bouts of anger), and cognition/mood (negative thoughts, distorted feelings, trouble remembering the event, or reduced interest in activities). People with PTSD may also suffer from depression and/or panic attacks. There are also differences in how men and women tend to manifest symptoms – everyone is different.
People with PTSD tend to feel a heightened sense of danger. Their natural fight-or-flight response is altered, causing them to feel stressed or fearful, even when they’re safe. PTSD can disrupt your normal activities and your ability to function. Words, sounds, or situations that remind you of trauma can trigger your symptoms.
Treatment for PTSD may include therapy, medication, or a combination of both.
The Social Security Administration (SSA) may consider your PTSD under Listing 12.15. However, even if you do not meet the strict requirements of the listing, you may still qualify for disability benefits if your experience of PTSD prevents you from working full time. The SSA will consider how your PTSD, or any other mental impairments you may have, affect your ability to: understand, remember, or apply information; interact with others; concentrate, persist, or maintain pace; and adapt or manage oneself.
See SSA’s mental listings: https://www.ssa.gov/disability/professionals/bluebook/12.00-MentalDisorders-Adult.htm#12_15
By: Joyce Trudeau of Premier Disability Services, LLC®