Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder Can Happen to Anyone

According to an article published by the Center for American Progress, 27.6 percent of Social Security Disability (SSD) benefit recipients suffer from mental and emotional problems such as Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), schizophrenia and severe depression. People often think of PTSD in particular as a condition that mostly affects members of the military and veterans. However, it can affect anyone, as the number of people receiving SSD benefits for PTSD shows.

PTSD results from a traumatic experience or situation that causes a variety of emotional and behavioral problems that often leave people unable to work or even leave home. According to the Mayo Clinic website, PTSD symptoms vary widely, but there are four basic symptoms that affect most people with this diagnosis.

Symptoms of PTSD

To varying degrees, people with a diagnosis of PTSD experience symptoms involving:

  • Memories, dreams, and flashbacks that suffers cannot shake
  • Avoidance of people, places or situations that may trigger memories and flashback
  • Negative changes in thinking and mood, such as loss of memory, inability to connect with others, hopelessness and very negative feeling about self and others
  • Intense emotional reactions that can include angry outbursts, overwhelming guilt or shame, self-destructive behavior such as drinking too much, driving much too fast or using drugs, and always being on guard

It is relatively easy to understand why so many veterans from the Vietnam, Iraq and Afghanistan wars suffer from PTSD. They have seen and experienced horrible things, watched friends and civilians die and have been left with catastrophic physical wounds. But what about civilians? Why do they suffer from PTSD?

Causes of PTSD

Research has revealed a variety of scenarios that could ignite PTSD. These include:

  • Catastrophic fires and significant burns
  • Head and brain injuries
  • Physical and sexual abuse and assault
  • Industrial accidents such as explosions
  • Natural disasters such as hurricanes, tornadoes, blizzards, earthquakes and tsunamis
  • Serious motor vehicle and public transportation accidents
  • Incidents of terrorism
  • Robbery at gunpoint

Some People May Be More Likely to Experience PTSD After a Traumatic Event

Scientists suggest that some people are more likely to develop PTSD after experiencing events such as these. Scientists have identified risk factors to explain why some people are more likely to develop the disorder than others with the same exposure and experiences. The risk factors include long-lasting trauma, childhood abuse and neglect, other mental health problems, isolation and having blood relatives with mental health problems.

History of Non-Military PTSD

PTSD has been recognized as a medical condition only since 1980. Although it was not called PTSD at the time, people in earlier centuries described their symptoms so vividly that it is clear they were experiencing stress related to trauma. For example, in the 17th century, the famous English diarist Samuel Pepys described how he felt six months after he survived the Great Fire of London in 1666, "I cannot sleep a night without great terrors of the fire."

In 1859, a French scientist propose a link between childhood trauma and symptoms of what was then referred to as "hysteria," noting that symptoms of somatisation, intense reactions, disassociation and fugue states could be the result of childhood trauma.

The notion of the subconscious was not developed until the early 19th century, also in France. It was thought that if people were not able to deal with present day traumatic experiences, unpleasant memories would be disassociated from conscious awareness and voluntary control and live in the subconscious until some event triggered their reappearance.

People With PTSD and Social Security Disability

In many instances the effects of PTSD are so severe that the sufferer is unable to work and may be eligible for Social Security Disability benefits. The Social Security Administration (SSA) classified PTSD as an anxiety disorder, like agoraphobia and panic disorders. When applying for SSD benefits, the claimant must show documentation about the anxiety reaction.

For example, if hearing loud, sudden noises triggers symptoms of PTSD, the documentation submitted to the SSA must include a detailed description of the patient's reaction to the noises. It should also describe the duration, intensity and frequency of the PTSD symptoms.

Although PTSD is now a recognized condition and is listed by the SSA as an impairment that could make an individual eligible for SSD benefits, it may be advisable to hire an experienced disability lawyer to make your case as strong as possible.