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Open Conversation: PTSD possible in abuse, assault victims

Posted at 10:14 PM, Jun 28, 2022
and last updated 2022-06-28 23:14:12-04

WACO, Texas — PTSD was first recognized as a mental disorder by the American Psychiatric Association in 1980.

According to the VA, those first studies focused on people who'd experienced trauma from war, the holocaust, atomic bombings, and natural disasters such as hurricanes.

"The more we learned about PTSD and about regulating our nervous system and the way our bodies work, really any significant trauma could potentially lead to PTSD," said Aranza Torres, a therapist with the Heart of Texas Counseling Center.

Mental health experts now recognize victims of domestic violence, child abuse, and sexual assault can also face PTSD.

"Survivors of sexual assault have been reported to have the same levels of PTSD as combat veterans," It's On Us Executive Director Tracey Vitchers said.

An estimated one in five women and one in four men will experience sexual violence in their lifetime. For many, that time is during their college years.

"We really strongly encourage students who experience sexual violence to seek mental health support because we recognize they may have high levels of PTSD, anxiety, and depression that can affect their ability to show up in their everyday lives," Vitchers said.

Everyone responds to trauma differently and some may not experience symptoms of PTSD right away.

"Sometimes we might not see PTSD until much later," Torres said. "Or sometimes its possible for someone to start to show some symptoms of PTSD, but it doesn't begin to impact their lives until much later."

Symptoms of PTSD can include reliving the trauma in flashbacks or nightmares, Increased irritability, trouble concentrating, and insomnia.

Mental health experts say these symptoms can impact all aspects of someone's life, But there are treatments to help and recovery is possible.

"If you or someone you love is starting to experience some very serious symptoms like these and if it really starts to impact your life, therapy can be a very helpful outlet to start exploring those things in a safe space and can definitely help address some of the challenges ahead of time so it doesn't get worse of effect that individual's life more," Torres said.