WHAT DO LADY GAGA, DARRELL HAMMOND, AND AUDIE MURPHY HAVE IN COMMON?
Lady Gaga is an American singer-songwriter who has received numerous awards and nominations for her contributions to the music industry.
Darrell Hammond is recognized for his impersonations of Bill Clinton, Al Gore, Sean Connery, John Travolta, and many more on Saturday Night Live.
Audie L. Murphy is known as America’s most decorated combat soldier of World War II and a famous movie star.
So, what do they all have in common? They all were diagnosed with Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD).
In 2016, Lady Gaga spoke publicly about her battle with PTSD—a result of being raped at 19 years old. For 7 years, Lady Gaga never spoke about her rape, not willing to admit that anything had even happened. However, in December 2016, she wrote and posted an open letter on the Born This Way Foundation website about her battle with mental illness and PTSD stating, “…I am finally well enough to tell you. There is a lot of shame attached to mental illness, but it’s important that you know that there is hope and a chance for recovery.”
WHAT IS PTSD?
According to the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) is a “…mental health problem that some people develop after experiencing or witnessing a life-threatening event [or trauma]”. The term PTSD is normally associated with military veterans that have returned form war; however, this is not always the case.
Traumatic events can include combat, witnessing death or injury, physical assault, sexual assault, an accident, a natural disaster, car accident, acts of terrorism, sudden loss of a loved one, domestic violence, or child sexual abuse.
Meaning, PTSD can happen to anyone.
Here are some quick facts about PTSD in the United States:
7% to 8% of the population will experience PTSD at some point in their livesAbout 8 million adults have PTSD during a given year.About 10 of every 100 women develop PTSD sometime in their lives compared with about 4 of every 100 men.
SIGNS AND SYMPTOMS
Not everyone who experiences a traumatic event will develop PTSD. There are many factors that can increase the chance that a person will have PTSD, and those factors are normally not under that person’s control.
PTSD symptoms may start within one month of the traumatic event, but sometimes the symptoms might not appear until years later. They are generally grouped into four types (with some examples):
Reliving the Event:
Memories of the traumatic event can come back at any time. A person may feel the same fear or horror when the event took place, feel they are going through it again, or are triggered by something (sights, sounds, smells, or thoughts) that reminds them of the event.
Negative Changes in Thinking and Mood:
A person may have a hard time expressing their feelings or have swift changes in mood. Examples include, thinking the world is dangerous and no one can be trusted, feeling detached from family and friends, or blaming themselves for what happened.
Feeling on Edge:
A person may always be alert and looking for danger. This can result in a hard time sleeping, being easily scared, trouble concentrating, or self-destructive behavior.
Avoiding Situations That Remind a Person of the Event:
A person may try to avoid situations or places that remind them of the event and/or avoid seeking help because they would have to talk or think about it.
Not all people who suffer from PTSD have the same symptoms. For example, Lady Gaga’s symptoms also include somatization—meaning her psychological symptoms are so overwhelming, to the point that she is unable to express her feelings and they become physical symptoms. An example would include, throwing up when feeling anxious or having a headache due to stress.
HEALING INVISIBLE WOUNDS
One of the main treatments for PTSD is psychotherapy or talk-therapy. There are two main talk-therapy methods used for people diagnosed with PTSD, Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) and Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR).
Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) has been found to be the most effective treatment of PTSD, in both the short term and long term. It focuses on identifying, understanding, and changing thinking behavior patterns. There are two main components of CBT that have been found to reduce PTSD symptoms.
Cognitive Processing Therapy (CPT) helps a person learn skills to understand and change the way they think about the trauma (such as coping with feelings of anger, guilt, and fear).
Prolonged Exposure (PE) therapy helps people face and control their fears by exposing them to the trauma in a safe environment. Exposure can include mental imagery, talking, writing, or going to the places or visiting the people that remind them of the trauma. This way, the person will be less sensitive over time.
Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR) was originally designed to treat PTSD. In EMDR, people will focus on sounds or hand movements while talking about the trauma. Like with CBT, EMDR helps people process trauma, allowing them to heal. If the healing process is blocked or imbalanced by the traumatic event, the emotional wound will be unable to heal and cause suffering. However by removing the block (distracting the person through hand movements and/or sounds), healing can resume.
Another type of therapy is Group Therapy. It provides a safe environment for a person to discuss their experience with others. By realizing that there are people out there that have dealt with a similar experience, that person will hopefully feel less isolated and withdrawn.
Psychotherapy, or talk-therapy, has been shown to be effective in the treatment of PTSD. However, everyone is different. Just because one type of treatment works for one person does not mean it will work for another. As such, a person needs to find a therapist that they feel comfortable with, meets their needs, and has experience with helping patients battling PTSD.
Congress named June 27 PTSD Awareness Day. The purpose of it is to encourage everyone to raise public awareness of PTSD and effective treatments. By reading this article you have already made a difference! By having a greater understanding and knowledge of PTSD, you can help others recognize symptoms and, hopefully, support them in seeking help.
If you are in crisis now, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (1-800-273-8225).