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Is social media helping or hurting people with trauma?

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When was the last time you heard mental illness used as a punchline? Someone might chalk up their tidiness to “OCD.” Or they laugh about “acting bipolar.”

Mental health has been coming out of the shadows in recent years. But while talking about it can help to combat stigma, is there a risk in becoming too casual about mental health?

Enter social media #TraumaTalk. Thanks to algorithms, social media platforms can quickly latch onto any topic that seems interesting to a user, whether it’s growing tomatoes or coping with trauma. Soon, trauma (or tomatoes) can be everywhere.

But critics worry that turning the word “trauma” into a buzzword diminishes its meaning for those who are struggling. As one headline puts it, “If everything is trauma, is anything?” Here are the real facts about trauma and PTSD:

What is trauma?

Trauma is a lasting emotional response to a terrible event like an accident, sexual assault, or natural disaster. Sometimes trauma is caused by a single event, like a car crash. Other times it’s long-term, like repeated abuse.

How does trauma affect people?

There’s no “normal” way to respond to trauma. Everyone is different. Many people have feelings of shock and denial soon after a traumatic event. Others take longer to react.

How often does trauma lead to PTSD?

Most people who go through trauma don’t develop PTSD. About 6 in 100 people will have PTSD at some point in their life. For those people, treatment can help.

Who is most likely to get PTSD?

PTSD can affect anyone who has lived through a trauma. It happens to people of any age, gender, ethnicity, income, or sexual orientation. It is more common for women than men. That may be in part due to higher rates of sexual assault for women.

What does PTSD look like?

While there are many stereotypes and myths about the condition, PTSD generally involves a few different types of symptoms:

  • Re-experiencing: This could be flashbacks, recurring memories or dreams, distressing thoughts, or physical signs of stress.
  • Avoidance: This may include staying away from places, events, or even thoughts related to the trauma.
  • Increased arousal or reactivity: For example, being easily startled or having a hard time concentrating. It can cause difficulty falling asleep, or angry outbursts.
  • Changes in mood or thinking: This can be memory gaps, negative thoughts or emotions, or loss of interest in activities.

How long does it last?

Most of the time, trauma symptoms go away on their own within a few weeks or months. If symptoms go on for more than a month, it may be PTSD. Without treatment, these symptoms can go on for years.

What is PTSD treatment like?

Different treatments can work for PTSD. Talk or exposure therapy can help people process their trauma. Medication can also help manage symptoms.

Freespira is a treatment that’s been shown to control symptoms in just one month. Patients can do the treatment right at home with 1:1 support from a coach. See how Freespira works. 

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