PTSD Awareness Month: Understanding Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder

June 27, 2024
Girl sitting at the edge of a dock facing still water


In addition to Pride Month, June is PTSD Awareness Month! Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) is a disorder that develops in some people who “have experienced a shocking, scary, or dangerous event.” Fear is a natural reaction to a traumatic or frightening event. Our “fight-or-flight” response (our body’s natural response to stress) will kick in as a measure to protect us from danger. Following a traumatic event, people may experience a wide variety of reactions and symptoms, and most people recover from initial symptoms over time. Those who continue to experience problems for more than a month may be diagnosed with PTSD.

Free Gray scale Photo of Man Covering Face With His Hands Stock PhotoAnyone can develop PTSD, regardless of age, gender, or other factors. Some examples of people may develop PTSD include combat veterans and people who have experienced or witnessed a physical or sexual assault, abuse, an accident, a disaster, or other serious events. People with PTSD may feel stressed, frightened, and/or hypervigilant even when they are not in danger. However, not everyone who experiences a traumatic event develops PTSD. Some genetic factors can make a person more likely to be diagnosed with PTSD.

PTSD and its symptoms can range from mild to debilitating. For some, this condition can be life-altering, requiring intensive medical and therapeutic treatment. The good news is that there are resources and support available for those with PTSD. Getting effective treatment for PTSD as soon as possible can make a big difference in quality of life and improving daily function.

Symptoms of PTSD

The symptoms of PTSD and their severity vary from person to person; the intensity of symptoms may also change over time. According to the Mayo Clinic, PTSD symptoms are generally grouped into four types: intrusive memories, avoidance, negative changes in thinking and mood, and changes in physical and emotional reactions.

Symptoms, according to the Mayo Clinic, can look like:

  Intrusive memories

  • Recurrent, unwanted distressing memories of the traumatic event
  • Reliving the traumatic event as if it were happening again (flashbacks)
  • Upsetting dreams or nightmares about the traumatic event
  • Severe emotional distress or physical reactions to something that reminds you of the traumatic event (triggers)


  • Trying to avoid thinking or talking about the traumatic event
  • Avoiding places, activities or people that remind you of the traumatic event

  Negative changes in thinking and mood

  • Negative thoughts about yourself, other people or the world
  • Hopelessness about the future
  • Memory problems, including not remembering important aspects of the traumatic event
  • Difficulty maintaining close relationships
  • Feeling detached from family and friends
  • Lack of interest in activities you once enjoyed
  • Difficulty experiencing positive emotions
  • Feeling emotionally numb
  • Suicidal thoughts/ideation

Changes in physical and emotional reactions

  • Being easily startled or frightened
  • Always being on guard for danger
  • Self-destructive behavior, such as drinking too much or driving too fast
  • Trouble sleeping
  • Trouble concentrating
  • Irritability, angry outbursts or aggressive behavior
  • Overwhelming guilt or shame

  For children 6 years old and younger with PTSD, symptoms may also include:

  • Re-enacting the traumatic event or aspects of the traumatic event through play
  • Frightening dreams that may or may not include aspects of the traumatic event

Individual factors, genetics, and/or individual resilience play a role in PTSD development. Symptoms can last months or years. PTSD can affect all aspects of a person’s life: relationships, work, general health, and overall quality of life. PTSD can also be co-occurring with other conditions such asFree Friends Sitting at a Park Stock Photo depression, anxiety, or substance abuse.

If someone is having disturbing thoughts and feelings about a traumatic event for more than a month or feel as though their symptoms are impacting their daily life, they should meet with a doctor and/or a mental health professional. Getting treatment as soon as possible can help prevent PTSD symptoms from worsening, offer new tools for coping, and help the individual to start feeling better.

Getting Help

There are many options available for those living with PTSD. It is important to work with a mental health professional who has experience treating PTSD or seek appropriate medical care.

The main treatments for PTSD are psychotherapy, medications, or a combination of psychotherapy and medications. A mental health professional can help people find the best treatment plan for an individual’s mental health symptoms and needs. Evidence-based treatments such as Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT), Trauma-Focused Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (TF-CBT), Prolonged Exposure Therapy, and Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR treatment) can help relieve the symptoms of PTSD. Self-care, coping strategies (such as mindfulness and exercise), and a social support system can also be critical to managing PTSD symptoms and improving quality of life.

Free White Daisy Flower Bloom Stock PhotoA Story of Transformation

Getting appropriate help with a professional can be transformative for those with PTSD, having a positive impact on their life and well-being. Take for instance the experience of Lisa, a 16-year-old client of Foundations’ therapist, Joanne Klysen (LPC). Lisa was painfully shy and severely anxious when she entered therapy. She spoke very little during her initial intake appointment for counseling services, and instead, she hid behind and spoke through her mother throughout the entire first hour of therapy. Lisa had been assaulted while on a trip out of state the previous year, and her parents thought that allowing her to not talk about it, in hopes she would just “move past it,” was the best thing they could do for her. Unfortunately, Lisa’s parents watched their once happy and social daughter turn into a shell of herself over the course of the next year. They finally decided to take her to counseling when the mere mention of the court proceedings brought their daughter to utter panic every time it was brought up.

the course of treatment using the Trauma-Focused Cognitive Behavioral approach, Joanne watched Lisa’s symptoms dissipate over the course of the next several months. Over time, therapy helped her build the coping skills she needed to talk about and gradually process what had happened to her. Through her dedicated work, Lisa was able to finally see that she was not to blame for what had been done to her, and that she did not need to live in constant fear. She started engaging with her friends again, her grades improved, and she was finally able to sleep through the night without the threat of the nightmares she once had.

Lisa worked hard in her therapy, admitting later that she almost quit early on because she thought Joanne was being “too hard on her” by making her talk about what happened. During her last session, she told her therapist that she was appreciative that therapy “made” her talk about what happened, as she could now see that she needed to share her story to process the experience. Ultimately, Lisa was able to testify in court at her assailant’s trial, which gave her an immense amount of confidence in herself.


Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder is a disorder that can affect anyone following a traumatic event. About 6 of every 100 people will experience PTSD at some point in their lifetime, according to the National Center for PTSD, a U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs program. Women are more likely than men to develop PTSD. Symptoms and their intensity can vary amongst individuals, and they can change over time. Early intervention and seeking treatment are crucial to managing symptoms and improving quality of life. Self-care, therapeutic coping strategies, medications, or a combination of these tools can help those with PTSD manage their symptoms.

Mental health care is key for managing PTSD. Foundations Health & Wholeness as a dedicated provider of mental health therapy services, including treating for those with PTSD and trauma victims, and our headquarters clinic is right in Green Bay.

If you or someone you know is struggling with PTSD, please know that you’re not alone. Let us support you on your journey toward wellness. Please call our compassionate client engagement team at 920-437-8256 to schedule an appointment or visit to learn more about our compassionate therapy services designed to support individual, family, and community healing. Together, we can transform lives and promote healing in our communities.

You can also help those with PTSD by raising awareness and advocating for high-quality, accessible mental health care. And remember, not all wounds are visible.


Reviewed by: Joanne Klysen, LPC & Lana Cheslock, LCSW