By Eileen McNichols MSN., RN., Director community Health and Pastoral Care Services

Many people deal with anxiety at times. Individuals who have had a dangerous or traumatic experience may suffer from a particularly difficult type of anxiety disorder known as Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD).  Very often people associate PTSD with soldiers. Following World War I, soldiers who struggled with intense anxiety and altered psychological or emotional functioning after returning from the battle field were said to have a condition known as “Shell Shock.” While it is true that up to 30% of soldiers returning from combat are diagnosed with PTSD, any person who experiences a traumatic or life-threatening incident such as sexual assault, child abuse, accidents, bombings, or natural disasters can develop this disabling disorder.

Someone suffering with PTSD repeatedly re-experiences the traumatic event through flashbacks, nightmares and frightening disabling thoughts. He or she may develop a variety of behaviors to avoid the distress and anxiety the experience triggers, such as staying away from people, places and/or objects that remind them of the experience or becoming emotionally numb and unable to relate to loved ones. Sometimes individuals with PTSD have extreme guilt, suffer with depression or worry to the point where they are unable to engage in everyday life. Others may develop amnesia or an inability to remember the dangerous event.

It is also common for individuals with PTSD to be easily startled, frightened or panicky, to always be on edge and or have difficulty sleeping.  Following a dangerous or life threatening experience, these feelings are normal to some extent. However, if they last more than a few weeks, interfere with daily function or begin to manifest after a period of weeks or months, they may indicate PTSD.

Children are susceptible to the effects of trauma but respond differently than adults. Indications of PTSD include regression of development such as bedwetting, losing the ability to speak, becoming unusually clingy with significant adults, acting out or drawing the traumatic event when playing.  Older children and teens may develop disruptive, disrespectful or destructive behaviors. Older children and teens may feel guilty for not preventing injury or deaths. They may also have thoughts of revenge.

The good news is that there are treatments available for this devastating disorder. Therapy is especially important. Anti-anxiety medications and anti-depressants can also be effective. Studies have shown that the sooner the individual receives help, the more likely they are to develop the resilience and coping skills that enable them to heal beyond the traumatic event.

January Programs

Little Company of Mary Hospital, 2800 W. 95th St. Info/registration: 708-423-5774

Courage to Quit, a three week quit smoking program, begins Wed., Jan. 3, 6:30 to 8 p.m. $20.

Health Academy: Post Traumatic Stress Disorder with Nadjeh Awadalllah, PhD, clinical therapist with the LCM Medical Group, Mon., Jan 8, 11 a.m. to noon. Free.

January 15th 10:00 a.m. -2:00 p.m. Babysitting Safe and Secure, a program designed to teach sage babysitting techniques to 11- to 14-year-olds, Mon., Jan 15, 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.  All materials included. Bring a bag lunch; snacks provided. $60. Registration required.

Lung Cancer Screening for people who meet certain criteria, includes a low dose CT scan of the lungs, Sat., Jan. 20, 8 a.m. to noon, Outpatient Care Center, 6700 W. 95th St. $125. Appointment required.




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