June: A PTSD (Post-traumatic stress disorder) Awareness Month of Healing and Support
June is PTSD Awareness Month, a time to raise awareness about Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). PTSD is a mental health condition that can develop after a person has experienced or witnessed a traumatic event. Recognizing the effects of PTSD can help us support those who are affected.
This article will discuss the causes of PTSD and how it can impact someone’s life, and the lives of those around them. We will also explain PTSD treatment options, and how to help someone affected.
What is PTSD?
Posttraumatic stress disorder is a debilitating psychiatric disorder that results from being exposed to real or threatened traumatic events. These events may include death, serious injury, or sexual assault. PTSD can affect individuals of any age, gender, or background.
Feeling scared or shocked is a normal reaction to a distressing situation. This is part of our ingrained “fight or flight” response, which allows us to cope with or avoid dangerous situations. A wide range of physical, mental, and emotional reactions may follow the event, but these usually dissipate within a few weeks.
PTSD symptoms overlap with those of acute stress disorder (ASD), but it is important to differentiate between the two. Acute stress disorder refers to the initial traumatic symptoms that occur immediately after the traumatic event happens, while PTSD symptoms usually begin within three months of the event. They may also occur even later. Those with delayed onset of PTSD may not show signs for up to six months after the traumatic event occurred.
PTSD can develop after someone has had ASD, but it can also occur when someone has not had ASD.
PTSD is only diagnosed if symptoms have been present for a month or more. These symptoms must be severe enough to interfere with daily functioning, such as relationships or work. Symptoms must also be unrelated to medication, substance use, or other illness. 
Early diagnosis and intervention are crucial to reduce the long-term effects associated with PTSD.
Who is at risk for PTSD?
Anyone can develop PTSD at any age. To be at risk, one must have had something shocking and/or dangerous happen to them. This event may have led them to believe that their life or the lives of others were in serious danger.
Some examples of harmful or life-threatening events that might lead to PTSD include:
• Involvement in a car accident
• Being raped or sexually assaulted
• Being the subject of bullying or harassment such as racism, sexism, homophobia, transphobia, and other types of personal abuse
• Experiencing a violent assault
• Witnessing other people hurt or killed
• Experiencing a natural disaster
• Traumatic childbirth as a mother
• Losing a loved one in distressing circumstances
• Being diagnosed with a life-threatening condition
Research also suggests that women are almost twice likely to develop PTSD than men. It has been reported that 8% of women and 4% of men are diagnosed with PTSD at some point in their life.  This may be due to the greater likelihood of women experiencing traumatic events in the form of sexual assault or childbirth.
Veterans who have been in a war zone also have a greater chance of developing PTSD.
While around 50–85% of Americans experience a traumatic event during their lifetimes, the prevalence of PTSD is only about 7%. This indicates that only a small number of people exposed to trauma develop the disorder. Researchers have suggested that these individual differences in vulnerability may be linked to genetic traits. 
How is PTSD treated?
Coping with PTSD requires comprehensive care and support. This cannot be one-size-fits-all. Depending on an individual’s symptoms and circumstances, they may need therapy, medication, or a combination of both. Lifestyle changes and specific PTSD coping skills can also help with recovery. It is vital to seek professional help from mental health professionals specializing in trauma.
Trauma-focused psychotherapy is usually the first line of treatment as it is designed specifically for those with PTSD. It involves using cognitive-behavioral techniques (CBT) to focus on the relationship among thoughts, feelings, and behaviors, and help the person to alter their thinking to develop healthier behaviors and improved emotion regulation.  Eye movement desensitization and reprocessing (EMDR) is another type of therapy that helps someone to process their traumatic memories and other adverse life experiences so that they can cope more effectively. 
Many PTSD symptoms improve after just a single CBT session. The therapy has been shown to shorten the duration of symptoms by months or even years. 
For most patients, the recommendation is 8–12 regular sessions of around 60–90 minutes with the same therapist at least once a week.
Depression, anxiety, and sleep disturbances are often experienced by those with PTSD.
Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRI) and serotonin-norepinephrine reuptake inhibitors (SNRI) may be recommended for adults to alleviate mood symptoms. These are often used in combination with psychotherapy. 
Medications that help with sleep may also be prescribed in the case of insomnia or nightmares, which are both common in PTSD.
For some people, antidepressants alone may not provide adequate relief from depressive symptoms.
Numerous studies have shown a link between folate deficiency and mental health disorders, particularly depression. A 2021 systematic review and meta-analysis found that patients who took folate alongside antidepressant medication experienced a better response than people who took medication alone. 
A 2023 review of two randomized controlled trials demonstrated that patients treated with L-methylfolate 15 mg/d as an adjunct to SSRI therapy had significantly greater efficacy compared with placebo. 
This evidence has led to recommendations for supplementing with L-methylfolate, the active form of folate. L-methylfolate is a cofactor in the production of neurotransmitters serotonin, dopamine, and norepinephrine, which support healthy mood. These “brain chemicals” also enhance the effects of antidepressants.  Unlike folic acid or dietary sources of folate, L-methylfolate readily crosses the blood-brain barrier for immediate uptake in the body.
Methylfolate is available on prescription; however, this is often costly. An alternative is Methyl-Life®, a brand that offers a clinically researched over-the-counter range of methylfolate supplements at dosages of 2.5mg, 5mg, 10mg, and 15mg.
How to support someone with PTSD?
If you suspect that someone you know is affected by PTSD, encourage them to seek help from a therapist and/or a health professional. Offer your support and be available if they need help.
Along with psychological help and medication, an affected person may also benefit from healthy lifestyle changes such as stress management techniques and dietary supplements. You can help them by suggesting activities such as daily exercise, meditation, support groups, counseling, or simply by being there for them. Even just searching for “PTSD support groups near me” can be a start.
PTSD is a serious mental health condition that can affect anyone who has experienced a traumatic event. The symptoms of PTSD can have a significant impact on physical and mental wellbeing. If untreated, these symptoms can seriously disrupt someone’s quality of life, and also the lives of those around them.
June PTSD Awareness Month reminds us that mental health conditions should not be ignored, particularly those resulting from a traumatic event. It is a debilitating disorder that requires professional care.
If you or someone you know is struggling with PTSD, please reach out for help. There are many resources available to support those who are affected by this condition, as highlighted by National PTSD Awareness Month.