In this article, we will be discussing what delayed-onset PTSD is and how/why it occurs with U.S. Veterans.
What is PTSD?
By definition, post-traumatic stress disorder is a psychiatric disorder that may occur in individuals that experience or witness a traumatic event. It is one of the most common disabilities veterans struggle with after returning to civilian life. Unfortunately, PTSD often goes undiagnosed or can have a late response, referred to as delayed-onset PTSD.
Delayed-Onset PTSD explained?
Delayed-onset PTSD is a common condition where the person who experienced a traumatic event in their life doesn’t develop a PTSD diagnosis until at least six months after the event occurs. Most at-risk people experience some PTSD symptoms, but not enough to meet the full diagnosis criteria (also known as subthreshold PTSD). It could take years for the trauma to affect the person enough to become a complete diagnosis in some cases. Delayed-onset PTSD is most often observed among the elderly but it can happen at any age- especially with veterans who experienced trauma.
So why does Delayed-Onset PTSD happen?
It’s still up in the air why PTSD can sometimes take a long time to present itself, regardless of the amount of research that has been done. Here’s what we know:
Our brains are incredibly adaptive. When something traumatic happens in our lives, our brain might try to store that particular event away to protect itself. However, sometimes adding new stress to your life or a new trauma occurs, the prior trauma can spill out.
PTSD has many triggers from words, smells, sounds, visuals, stress, and loss. Any of these triggers can upset prior traumas and make PTSD more prominent. When these symptoms aren’t appropriately addressed in those dealing with slight symptoms, your chances of developing PTSD are higher.
Suppose you are at high risk for developing PTSD. In that case, it’s essential to address your symptoms head-on using healthy coping strategies. For example: speak with a mental health professional or avoid turning to avoidance or substance use- which will likely make matters worse.
Here are some resources for veterans struggling with PTSD:
Vet Crisis Line: 1-800-273-8255 (Press 1)
VA PTSD line: 866-948-7880 or send an email to PTSDconsult@va.gov
Veteran Families United 1-800-342-9647 to speak to a counselor