Many people associate post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) with returning war veterans and adult victims of child abuse. However, post-traumatic stress disorder can also happen for other reasons. As researchers learn more about the effects of traumatic events on brain chemistry, they have found that psychological injury can be as debilitating as physical injury, if not more so.
PTSD is a severe anxiety disorder that develops as a response to experiencing or witnessing a traumatic event. The disorder can cause a wide range of behaviors and symptoms that interfere with normal activities of daily life.
Scientists now believe that experiencing a traumatic or shocking event actually causes changes in the brain. In addition, some people may have genetic predisposition to PTSD, which means they were born with a greater likelihood of suffering from PTSD. Researchers hope to develop biochemical tests and brain scans that will be able to identify this genetic predisposition.
Rape and assault victims may suffer from PTSD. Involvement in a violent, abusive relationship or a life-threatening accident can also cause the disorder. Even just the witnessing a tragic event can set off PTSD in someone.
Who Has Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder?
The popular notion that trauma survivors have amnesia and must “recover memories” is real, but rare. A survivor is more likely to re-live the event over and over in his or her mind or even dream about the event. These experiences aren’t on the survivor’s part. The memory keeps replaying itself like a tape that can turn itself on at any time but can’t shut off. In an effort to stop this replay, a survivor may start to avoid any situation that could bring the event to mind. At the same time, a survivor could have great difficulty with talking about the event. The survivor’s whole personality may change — it might be difficult to feel or express emotion. The survivor may have a feeling that he or she is constantly on guard. The smallest unexpected noise or movement could be terrifying.
PTSD can be a devastating and crippling mental condition. PTSD can leave a person unable to gain or hold onto employment or unable to continue in a relationship. Some people find that they can no longer drive or even can’t leave the house.
Several other conditions exist that are similar to PTSD but shorter in duration and intensity. A physician can help to determine if someone has PTSD or suffers from a related condition. If a survivor seeks Social Security disability benefits or would like to file a civil action against the individual or company that caused the distress, a doctor may need to testify about the survivor’s condition.
What Can An Attorney Do?
If a survivor would like to seek compensation for an injury through civil action, an attorney can help to organize the documentation showing that the plaintiff has PTSD. The courts often consider PTSD as a form of pain and suffering. Medical bills, pharmacy receipts, bank statements, tax forms, pay stubs and even grocery bills might all help in establishing the plaintiff’s life circumstances before and after the traumatic event. This documentation may also help in claiming Social Security disability benefits as a result of PTSD.
Suffering from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder may entitle an individual to more compensation than one would think. By hiring a personal injury attorney as soon as possible after the incident that caused it, a survivor might have a much greater chance of recovering expenses and lost income than he or she accepted an insurance settlement without filing a lawsuit.