Is Post Traumatic Stress Disorder a Disability

Hardly would one go through life without having to deal with one horrific scar, abuse, accident, natural disaster, or the other – the list is unending.

We only get lucky if the ghosts stay buried without causing us more pain or harm.

Howbeit, most people don’t get that lucky. There’s a more alarming number of people worldwide dealing with one form of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) than what is on paper. 

Usually, the natural response of the body to an unfortunate incidence or trauma could be extreme bursts of anxiety, depression, retroactive flashbacks, etc.

More often than not, these symptoms fade over time; they only raise concern when they persist longer than is considered normal.

People often come down with PTSD after sexual or physical abuse, accidents that claimed the life of loved ones, injuries, natural disasters, and other horrendous trials that life often throws. 

While statistics show that 12% will experience PTSD in their lifetime and there’s no cutting edge marker to determine when ill will come knocking, can we rule PTSD as a disability?

Or should everyone live in perpetual fear of being labeled as disabled at some point in their life if tragedy ever opens the door for PTSD?

What Qualifies as a Disability?

Without even thinking about it, we would chorus “any mental or physical condition that interferes with a person’s activities or senses.” While that may be true, it’s all-inclusive.

Whatever alters an individual’s intellectual, psychiatric, cognitive, neurological, sensory, or physical functions can qualify as a disability.

The extent may vary in different instances, and an individual may come down with more than one.

Disabilities may mean that an individual may not be able to communicate effectively, have vibrant social interactions, learn as they ought to, or may require support for the rest of their lives.

This is where the lines become grey. Can PTSD symptoms predispose an individual to any of those? Are there records of victims that got to any of these states following their PTSD attacks? The questions can go on and on.

PTSD symptoms though enduring, are not Omni-present, enhance the challenge victims always face with getting social security disability benefits.

A person that battled with vivid hallucinations, nightmares, and severe depression last summer may get it all together before the next fall.

However, while everyone may be smiling again, the next PTSD episode may be more devastating.

Therefore, when then is it safe to categorize PTSD as a disability – is it ever one?

Major Characteristic of PTSD Episodes 

Victims often present with a unique set of symptoms depending on the nature of the causative mishap.

However, the typical symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder include retroactive flashbacks, uncontrollable anxiety, hallucinations, extreme panic, and depression.

The intensity of these symptoms usually differs among different individuals and age groups.

As it were, a 10-year-old may not handle vivid nightmares as an adult would or understand that what he is felt after his mum’s death was depression. 

The compelling arguments as to whether or not PTSD should be called a disability stem from associated symptoms, especially in individuals with more devastating stories. In some instances:

  • The flashbacks can be blinding (the way you will feel when a Sheriff headlight points directly to your eyes), and vivid nightmares can result in sleepless nights, make you cringe away often, or avoid the world.  
  • Victims can feel helpless, become self- destructive, unreasonably angry, hostile, easily startled, or intense emotional arousal. At this point, they become more difficult to reach and may feel that anyone getting close is out to harm them (especially those that were sexually or physically abused).
  • Others try to forget it altogether, to make it all go away, and never to have to remember it ever happened. They avoid everyone and everything that will make them speak or think and may gradually lose touch with anything happening in the world around them.
  • They could be intense psychological distress when one is exposed again to cues or events that are similar to what caused the initial trauma. Even if their last PTSD episode was years back, it can come crawling back in.

The key thing to note about the presentation of PTSD is persistence. You can’t say you have PTSD already if the symptoms just lasted a couple of days or weeks after the trauma.

Definitively, PTSD diagnosis is only confirmed when a person experiences these symptoms for least a month.

At times, they don’t recur till years later, in which case it can’t be called a disability.

Coping with PTSD 

Irrespective of how intense one’s PTSD symptoms may be, it shouldn’t affect one’s quality of life if handled properly.

The symptoms can be disenabling while they last, and there are no unknown curative measures at the moment.

Notwithstanding, here are some effective ways one can deal with the symptoms and lead a better life.

  • Non-pharmacological therapy: Mostly recommended are group, psychodynamic, and behavioral therapy.
    These therapies usually help the individual to recognize thought patterns that expose them to the triggers, review their values, and provide an environment where they can interact with others that are going through similar challenges.
    Who is most qualified to sympathize with a victim of rape than one who knows what it feels like to have their will taken away? 
  • Pharmacological treatments: selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors, mood stabilizers, tricyclic antidepressants, and some atypical antipsychotics are used by physicians to manage certain symptoms. This option is solely up to the physician to decide and is mostly recommended by when the symptoms are disenabling and recur very often.

Living with a deep scar that tears open unannounced can be hard to deal with, and it is more disheartening when people think they understand how you feel, but in reality, they don’t, and probably never will.

People living with post-traumatic stress disorder may have to go through excruciating and incapacitating outbursts often in their lifetime.

But that may not make the social security disability list or any other disability list except there’s proper documentation to affirm the contrary. 

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