PTSD Awareness Day June 27, 2022

By: Brianna MacLean, Cub Brand Ambassador

It can happen to anyone.

No matter who you are, or what your circumstances might be, all people are at risk of facing a traumatic event sometime in their lives; for some, these traumatic events can prove harder to shake than others.

The most recent edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5) defines Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) as an anxiety disorder that emerges when one faces a traumatic event, resulting in noticeable distress and disruption to everyday life. To provide the best chance of an accurate diagnosis, the official symptoms of PTSD have been broken down into four primary categories:

  1. Intrusion.
  • There is an increase in intrusive and distressing memories, thoughts, disassociation, and physical reactions that happen on a reoccurring basis in direct response to the traumatic event.
  1. Avoidance.
  • People with PTSD may avoid any location, activity/situation, object, people, or even thoughts that may result in recollection of the traumatic event.
  1. Negative changes in thought & mood.
  • There may be an elevated and persistent state of negative emotions such as sadness, anger, fear, and self-blame.
  • There may be an inability to hold interest in activities and people that previously had positive connotations.
  1. Changes in arousal & reactivity.
  • A heightened sense of irritability, impulsivity, and potentially self-destructive behaviours may develop following a traumatic event.
  • Increased difficulty sleeping and concentrating.

To receive an official diagnosis of PTSD from a registered psychologist, one or more of each of the four symptoms must be present in conjunction with a traumatic event/experience. Additionally, these symptoms must have been present for longer than one month and have caused noticeable distress and interference in one’s daily life.

While anyone can be diagnosed with PTSD, those in high-stress careers, such as military personnel, law enforcement, first responders, and medical professionals all have a significantly higher chance of developing the disorder due to the numerous risks associated with their occupations. Another group that is at particularly high risk of developing PTSD are survivors of domestic violence, with an estimated 34% to 84% of survivors developing the disorder in their lifetime.

In 2016, it was estimated that 9.2% of Canadians suffer from PTSD; this number has grown since the beginning of 2020 due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, particularly among members of the medical community who have been on the front lines of this world-changing event since its earliest days. However, it is generally believed within the mental health community that the actual number of people who are currently suffering from PTSD is likely much higher than what has been officially recorded. Despite the strides made in general education and awareness, there is still a significant stigma associated with mental disorders such as PTSD that can often result in individuals avoiding an official diagnosis’ out of a misguided sense of shame.

Due to this general attitude surrounding trauma-based disorders in Western society, a collection of stereotypes rather than facts directly related to conditions such as PTSD continues to dominate the prevailing narrative and public perception. This is further reinforced in influential media such as film and television. Like trauma itself, the disorder is not a one-size-fits-all situation; there is a diverse multitude of symptoms and general information that is not inherently known by the majority.

Did you know that:

  • Symptoms of PTSD can appear at any time, not just immediately following a traumatic event.
    • This phenomenon is also known as a “delayed expression,” with symptoms appearing weeks, months, or even years following the traumatic event.
  • Women are 6% more likely than men to develop PTSD at some point in their lives.
    • This is primarily due to sexual harassment and/or assaults being one of the most common forms of traumatic events that results in PTSD, which women in North America endure at a much higher rate than men (81% compared to 34%).
  • Populations from more affluent, “First-World” countries have a higher percentage of citizens with PTSD than their “Third-World” counterparts.
    • The theory regarding this paradox is that part of the development of PTSD is connected to a violation of one’s expectations, which is more likely to occur in environments that one considers to be inherently safe and trustworthy.

By breaking down the rigid walls that keep PTSD within a prison of stereotypes, Western society is creating the opportunity to expand the resources and accommodations available to those suffering from the disorder, in addition to increasing public knowledge of the condition outside of the narrow perception that continues to dominate the narrative. While several steps have been made in the right direction, there are still miles to go until we reach the finish line.

Officially established in the United States in June 2010, with Canada following suit in 2018, the goal of PTSD Awareness Day is to convey accurate information related to education and resources that will ultimately improve the lives of those who are suffering from the condition. This highly publicized establishment has provided the opportunity to organizations such as the PTSD Association of Canada, The Lifeline Canada Foundation, and the National Center for PTSD in the United States to provide this comprehensive support, education, and surplus of resources to those diagnosed with PTSD and the North American public. It’s steps like these, with education and support at the forefront, that will ideally lead to a future where conditions such as PTSD are no longer stereotyped, stigmatized, or misunderstood.

For more information and resources about PTSD and treatment, please visit:
PTSD Association of Canada
Additional Links
The Lifeline Canada Foundation
The Center for Addiction and Mental Health
Anxiety Canada
The Psychologists’ Association of Alberta
MyHealth Alberta
The National Center for PTSD
Source: The British Journal of Psychiatry