Last week I wrote my blog from the perspective of someone suffering from PTSD. This week I want to focus on the disorder itself and what can be done to treat it.
Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder is something millions of American’s face every day. It is a mental disorder caused by exposure to certain traumas and stressors (such as sexual, physical or emotional abuse) that causes feelings of intense fear, helplessness and horror (American Psychological Association, 2013).
We have all heard PTSD associated with war veterans coming back home from active duty, but there is a growing epidemic of this disorder among women who have been commercially sexually exploited. I say epidemic because it is becoming more prevalent than ever before, affecting more than 7.7 million Americans, and nearly twice more women than men (National Institute of Health, 2009). The number has increased dramatically since 2009.
The most common symptoms of PTSD are nightmares, fragmented sleep, hyper arousal (i.e. feelings of constant anxiety, restlessness, shortness of breath, feeling like something bad is about to happen all of the time), and insomnia. Those symptoms alone are more than enough for one person to handle, but almost always PTSD is diagnosed alongside depression, substance abuse, eating and anxiety disorders (Raskind et al., 2003; Sareen, 2014).
That means that in addition to the sleepless nights and feeling constantly on edge, those diagnosed with PTSD are usually battling anorexia/bulimia, drug and alcohol addiction and feeling like their life doesn’t matter and it would be easier to end it.
100% of the women we have and continue to serve at Amirah are diagnosed with PTSD. Part of our job is to help provide a safe environment for them to heal while connecting them with therapeutic resources in the community. All of our women manage their PTSD by participating in many different forms of psychotherapy and psychopharmacology.
Treatment for PTSD is necessary and underutilized due to many socioeconomic barriers. By the time a woman enters our program, she has been battling this disease alone, for many years, without proper treatment or support. Our responsibility is to provide them with the safe space, medical care, and love they have been lacking.
I'm leaving you with a feeling of helplessness, but we will pick this up again next week as we find out what we can do to be a part of their journeys as they deal with PTSD.
This is a post for a series on what it is like to work with someone who has PTSD. Every woman that is in our program at Amirah faces PTSD.