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Posted on: June 1, 2020 | Julie Rael, LCSW, CCO Valley Behavioral Health

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On June 25th, 2015, the United States Senate passed Resolution 215 designating the month of June as “National Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder Awareness Month” and “National Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder Awareness Day”. This designation is significant as many that have suffered from trauma and Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), carry painful memories and distressing symptoms that survivors often don’t want to share or don’t feel that they can talk about them with others. Survivors of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder often feel alone and isolated from others due to their trauma experiences. These individuals often feel unsafe and use avoidance behaviors to help them deal with their fear and pain. Avoidance is a common coping mechanism that everyone uses from time- to- time, but when it is used frequently it delays the healing process which can result in other problematic situations that can increase an individual’s level and duration of symptom distress. Awareness and the actions taken after gaining awareness to seek help is the beginning of their recovery.

Trauma in varying degrees is a common human experience, and at times people may experience symptoms of acute stress disorder from traumatic events, which can look like PTSD, but it is a shorter-term response to trauma that occurs within a month of the event. PTSD symptoms last more than one month and continue long after direct exposure to the traumatic event or series of events. According to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (5th ed.; DSM-5; American Psychiatric Association, 2013). A diagnosis of PTSD would be considered if an individual had directly experienced a traumatic event, witnessing the traumatic event, learned of a traumatic event happening to a family member or friend, or continues to experience first hand, repeated, or extreme exposure to the “aversive details” of the traumatic event. The symptoms may include re-experiencing the event through distressing memories, nightmares and flashbacks, negative thoughts and mood that can result in blaming of self or others, disconnecting from others, lack of desire to participate in activities, and inability to remember details around the traumatic event. Symptoms of arousal may also include aggression, recklessness and self-destructive behaviors, sleep problems, and experiencing states of increased alertness for potential danger. The symptoms cause substantial distress in the individual’s interactions with others, functioning at work, and other aspects of their life.

Some may ask why people develop PTSD while others may only experience shorter-term symptoms of acute stress disorder or no symptoms of distress after a traumatic event. The National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) (2020) explains that the difference in one’s response to a traumatic event could be the result of pre-existing risk and resiliency factors. If someone has pre-existing risk factors, these put them at greater risk of developing PTSD, while having pre-existing resiliency factors reduces their risk of developing this disorder. If an individual is under a lot of stress prior to the traumatic event or has been through previous traumatic events, they are at greater risk. If they receive regular support from loved ones and join a support group, their risk is reduced. As a therapist, I can attest that adding more resiliency factors or adding healthy coping skills while in treatment can also help an individual with PTSD work through their treatment plan and enhance the treatment they receive. If you seek treatment and are diagnosed with PTSD, your therapist will help you identify pre-existing resiliency factors and encourage you to maintain these, as well as help you to identify new or previously used coping skills that can increase your resiliency.

Our Highland Springs Clinics we treat PTSD and trauma as it can exacerbate other behavioral health disorders with evidenced-based treatments customized for each of our client’s needs. These evidenced-based treatments may include Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT), Cognitive Processing Therapy (CPT), Prolonged Exposure and Eye Movement Desensitization, and Reprocessing (EMDR). If you or a loved one has experienced symptoms of PTSD, please don’t hesitate to contact us and request a consultation appointment to obtain an evaluation and individualized treatment plan.





 American Psychiatric Association. (2013). Diagnostic and statistical manual of mental disorders (5th ed.). Washington, DC: Author.

United States Congress (2015) Senate Resolution 215.

National Institute of Mental Health (2020). Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder

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