The Timebomb: PTSD Untreated

Imagine generated by Gencraft.

June is PTSD Awareness Month. PTSD untreated has dangerous effects and we talk about it plenty among first responders, but many still brush it off when it comes to themselves.

“I don’t need help.”

“I can manage it.”

“I’ll get help if it gets worse but I’m fine for now.”

Would you wait for the curtains to catch fire before putting out a small flame? Or would you wait for a suspect to have a hostage before running him down? Would you wait for a person who’s choking to pass out before helping?

Hey, you’re human too. Let’s get more assertive in our own self-care.

Why, you may ask? Here’s why.

The Timebomb of PTSD Untreated

The effects of PTSD untreated can hit many facets of your life, physical, mental, relational, personal, and professional. It’s a timebomb of symptoms that can culminate in divorce, joblessness, homelessness, or suicide. Here are some of the effects.

Physical Ailments

Many physical ailments can follow PTSD untreated. The mental and emotional stress can overwhelm one’s body and create physical effects such as:

  • Type-II diabetes
  • High blood pressure
  • Cardiac issues including heart disease
  • Chronic pain

All of these physical issues can be treated with medication, but without proper attention given to PTSD, they will worsen over time despite medical treatment.

Mental Ailments

Mental ailments are more commonly thought to be created by PTSD, but many still underestimate their seriousness. These can range from:

  • Depression
  • Anxiety
  • Anger
  • Substance abuse disorders
  • Eating disorders
  • Suicidal ideation

Each of the above issues can lead to greater injury of one’s loved ones physically or emotionally, or of oneself as far as suicide. As mental ailments can be gradual, we often don’t realize how serious they become until it’s too late.

Relational Issues

With PTSD untreated, a person tends to look inward and has trouble seeing things outside the lens of trauma. This puts a strain on social connections be they romantic, friends, or family. These can be issues like:

  • Social isolation
  • Marital problems
  • Communication issues with others

They may be gradual, but the more you become isolated, the more you look inward, towards trauma, and your demons. The outside world soon seems unreachable.

Personal Issues

Since PTSD makes one look inward, you might think you would take care of your personal needs, but that’s not true. In fact, with PTSD, you disregard your personal needs more than ever. You have a(n):

  • Lack of interest in things you once loved
  • Inability to find peace or enjoy anything
  • Drop in self-image and confidence

Those with PTSD untreated often end up viewing themselves as the problem. Self-esteem drops dramatically and they feel worthless, unnecessary, and useless. This perpetuates the mental health issues of anxiety, depression, and suicidal ideation.

Professional Issues

With a number of the above happening, it’s no wonder PTSD untreated can lead to professional or educational issues such as:

  • Inability to function at work or school
  • Difficulty completing tasks that were once simple
  • Inability to uphold responsibilities

These can lead to dropping out of school, job loss, and an inability to get a job. All of which can lead to financial problems, exacerbating mental health concerns.

You can see the downward spiral in any number of combinations of the above issues, but are you still thinking you’re a burden if you reach out?

Thinking of Others by Thinking of Yourself

When you leave PTSD untreated, you hurt more than yourself. You hurt the very people you love and are trying to protect. Look back on all those symptoms and think of how they affect those around the one suffering.

Coworkers pick up more shifts. Spouses struggle to pay bills. You lose any joy in your life and others no longer want to be around you. Friends and family are concerned (with or without your permission it happens) and worry over you. Marriages are strained. Kids don’t understand and could blame themselves. Medical bills rack up and those around you try to take care of the pieces.

Why, you might wonder, would anyone bother to worry and fuss over someone who clearly doesn’t want help? Why can’t they just let you be out of the equation?

Because there’s something in them you once recognized. Those loved ones have something you have – or once had – that you’ve forgotten: the desire to help others and the capacity for love.

They love you and care about you. They need you and they need you to be okay. You’re trying to not hurt them by isolating yourself, but it’s having the opposite effect.

Lying doesn’t make that go away. Lying doesn’t change the truth: that PTSD untreated hurts more than the person suffering from trauma; it hurts those around them.

Defusing the Bomb

The first step is acknowledging that you’re worth more than a paycheck or a ride to school or a household chore. You, the person, the whole you, are worth more than your weight in gold to those you love.

You are loved by those around you and valued by others. Respect them by seeing that. Meditate on it if you need to, but realize that you are worth fighting for just like the lives you have affected in your job.

It’s time to start allowing others the courtesy of helping you now.

Next, acknowledge your humanity and your vulnerability. You don’t have to post about it publicly but acknowledge it personally.

Now, you’re ready to start seeking help through treatment options. Some are better than others for different people, so be patient as you find the right options for you. Don’t let PTSD untreated be the end of a fuse; look into it now.

Treatment for PTSD

These days there are loads of options for those with PTSD. Here are just a few:

  • Therapy – Traditional therapy, cognitive behavioral therapy, and cognitive processing therapy are just some options. Therapists are trained to help unpack trauma and find underlying causes so patients can move past their trauma. First responders should find a therapist who has experience in their field.
  • EMDR – Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing has proven effective in many patients with PTSD. You can read more about this treatment here.
  • Medication – Medications like SSRIs (selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors) can help one’s mental condition while other therapies work on PTSD. Doctors often prescribe medication concurrent to other treatments.
  • Coaching – Coaching is an approach unlike traditional therapy. Coaching allows you to decide what direction you want to take with your life. While therapy looks back on trauma, coaching looks at your life now and helps you to choose your direction. To find out if coaching is right for you, reach out to us at First Responder Coaching.
  • Peer Support – There are so many peer support options out there, especially for first responders and veterans. For a good starting list, click here for NAMI’s list or click here for SAMHSA’s list.
  • Personal therapy – We find peace or unload our minds differently. For some, it’s hiking or biking. Some swim, some run, and some play chess. Whether you need to get physical and kickbox or mental and meditate, find the personal release you need to detox your brain from negativity. Don’t let this be your only method of care, but make sure it’s part of your routine.

Lastly, if you or someone you love is in danger due to the effect of PTSD untreated, don’t hesitate to reach out. Saving lives is what we do, and saving our own means saving others as well. You have no idea how valuable you are, how much more good you can do in this world, and how you affect those you love.

[For immediate assistance, call the National Suicide Prevention Line at 988.]