Although we’ve come a long way when it comes to PTSD awareness, there are still a lot of misunderstandings about what the condition is and what can cause it. There is also a lack of awareness of the impacts of brain injuries. This PTSD Awareness Month, we want to bring attention to these two related conditions.
What Is PTSD?
PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder) is a condition someone may develop after “experiencing a shocking or scary event.” PTSD is often associated with military combat and, while many veterans do experience PTSD, it can also be caused by other experiences. Accidents, natural disasters, local or national tragedies, abuse or any number of things can cause PTSD. Anyone, at any age, can develop PTSD, for a variety of reasons and something that may not seem traumatic to one person may be very traumatic for someone else.
PTSD symptoms include:
- Intrusive memories
- Negative changes in thoughts or mood
- Change in physical or emotional reactions
These symptoms often begin within a month of the traumatic experience, but can also appear later, even years afterward.
What Is TBI?
Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI) refers to an injury to the brain caused by a “forceful bump, blow, or jolt to the head or body, or from an object that pierces the skull and enters the brain.”
The brain is the control center of the body and controls everything we do – physically, mentally, and emotionally. A brain injury can cause problems with how a person “thinks, understands, moves, communicates, and acts.” Some individuals experience temporary or short-term problems (between 75% and 90% of civilian head injuries in the United States are mild), but serious TBI can lead to severe and permanent disability, or even death.
TBI might cause:
- Memory loss
- Problems with concentrating or making decisions
- Intellectual disability
- Blurred vision
- Hearing problems
- Communication problems
- Behavior changes a.k.a. personality changes
What PTSD and TBI Have in Common
Although veterans are not the only people who experience PTSD or TBI, they may be more likely to experience them together. PTSD and TBI “often coexist because brain injuries are often sustained in traumatic experiences.” Trauma can also affect the brain on its own.
The conditions can also have similar symptoms, like “changes in cognition such as memory and concentration, depression, anxiety, insomnia, and fatigue.”
Why PTSD and Brain Injury Awareness Matter
PTSD and TBI are two conditions that are still widely misunderstood. Many people still think that veterans are the only ones who develop PTSD. It’s also often assumed that TBI only causes intellectual disability. Its other symptoms are not well known.
Awareness not only helps us to understand PTSD and TBI better, it promotes empathy and compassion for those living with these conditions. Awareness reduces the stigma around PTSD and TBI and lets individuals who are struggling know that it’s ok to reach out for help.
Help for TBI and PTSD in Coastal, Southeastern Virginia
Our Brain Injury Rehabilitation Support Team (BIRST) is a community-based support program that serves individuals with brain injuries, neurocognitive disorders (NCD), and/or post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).
BIRST provides the following services:
- Person-centered care
- Specialized outpatient therapy
- Specialized case management services
- Physical/occupational therapy supports
- Vocational assistance
How Region Five Can Help You
Help for TBI, PTSD and other behavioral health conditions is available and accessible in Virginia. In Region Five, also known as the Greater Tidewater Hampton Roads area or coastal, southeastern Virginia, we’re your central point of access to behavioral health support services.
Are you in the Region Five area? Find your local community services board (CSB) here.
Are you somewhere else in Virginia? You can find your local CSB here.
Need to talk to someone right away? Our Crisis Line is available 24/7. Talk to a trained counselor by calling 757-656-7755.