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Social Anxiety and Post Traumatic Stress Disorder are disorders that near everyone knows of. Chances are you either know someone with one or both, or have it yourself. Now, find out everything you need to know and more about these unfortunate disorders.

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PTSD & Social Anxiety: What You Don't Know

Kaylee Voight

2nd Hour

Post Traumatic Stress Disorder

Brought on by experiencing or witnessing a triggering event, Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, or PTSD, is a disorder that can cause vivid flashbacks, nightmares, or severe anxiety. These symptoms can and do interfere with the diagnosed's day to day life.

Event's that can cause PTSD to begin include, but are not limited to:

  1. Serious road accidents
  2. Violent personal assaults
  3. Prolonged abuse
  4. Witnessing violent deaths
  5. Military combat
  6. Being held hostage
  7. Terrorist attacks
  8. Natural disasters
  9. Diagnosis of a life threatening condition
  10. An unexpected severe injury or death of a close friend or family member

Symptoms that can indicate the presence of PTSD according to the DSM-5 list prolonged distress, nightmares, flashbacks, trauma related thoughts or feelings, trauma related reminders, disassociative amnesia related to the trauma, persistently negative beliefs, sleep disturbance, aggressive behaviors, self destructive or reckless behaviors, problems in concentration, and exaggerated startle response. The continuation of these symptoms for one or more month(s) may a strong indicator of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.

Approximately 70% of adults within the US have experienced a traumatic event and 20% of those have developed PTSD. Only about 7-8% of the US population will have PTSD within the course of their lifetime.

Treatment for PTSD include four effective methods. Cognitive therapy attempts to change the way a person thinks of their trauma. Exposure therapy includes discussion of the trauma with a therapist repeatedly, based on the idea of learning to control the feelings a patient experiences surrounding the trauma. Eye movement desensitization and reprocessing is a similar form of therapy that can ease with the reaction regarding the memories of trauma. The final method of treatment is medication. Medications such as Celexa, Prozac, and Paxil, along with other anti depressants, have been found as helpful. 

P. K. Phillips' Story

Before the age of 17, a young P. K. Phillips was raped. She declined offers of help from various rape counselors, under the impression she would be fine without the help. This would prove to be a detrimental decision regarding Phillips' health. 

In the weeks that followed, Phillips' suffered from horrific flashbacks and nightmares, consequently, she began having frequent panic attacks. She was unable to leave her home and in turn, her successful modeling career was set to a abrupt halt. She accepted this new life and eventually, the symptoms faded away. Phillips' dismissed the era as a "panic problem". 

Around the age of 35, Phillips' encountered another traumatic event, re-triggering her PTSD. She was involved in an attack at knife point, believing she'd die. She began seeing vivid images of attackers breaking into her house and harming her daughter. She would panic on the freeway, causing her to end yet another job. She ceased going out in public due to the frequent attacks. 

She was soon diagnosed with PTSD. Phillips' describes how much of a blessing this diagnosis was for her. For the first time in years, she felt that she wasn't alone. She found her treatment was real, and better yet, it was treatable. Since then, Phillips' is no longer under the control of her disorder and urges others that it is never too late to seek help.

Social Anxiety

A feeling of uneasiness, dread, or apprehension about social interaction and presentation; a dreadful reality for those diagnosed with social anxiety. Social anxiety is vastly different from simple 'shyness'. Shyness often does not disturb a person's life, while social anxiety is debilitating. 

Social anxiety is often caused by, but not limited to:

  1. Bullying
  2. Family conflict
  3. Genetics 
  4. Sexual abuse
  5. Environmental factors

Some symptoms of social anxiety are blushing, profuse sweating, trembling, nausea or other abdominal distress, rapid heartbeat, shortness of breath, dizziness or lightheadedness, headaches, and feelings of detachment and loss of self-control. If these symptoms persist for longer than 6 months, it is likely that the patient has social anxiety.

Social anxiety affects about 12.8% of the U.S. population. The average age of onset for those experiencing this disorder is 13 years old.

 In order to help symptoms, patients can turn to cognitive behavioral therapy, psychotherapy, or antidepressants to help boost confidence. 

Jason's Story

Jason was just a normal high schooler who got along well with others. A special guest speaker from the Minnesota Vikings football team, Matt Blair, came in to speak to Jason's school. Jason's father, a huge Vikings fan, gave his son a few Matt Blair player cards and requested that were he to get the chance, ask Matt Blair to autograph them. 

At the assembly, Matt Blair gave his speech and afterwards, asked for questions. Everyone in the room chanted Jason's name, knowing of his father's request. Jason was called on. He was incredibly nervous, but managed to ask for the autograph. The player smiled and said that of course he would, as long as Jason did a well known football touchdown dance. Due to nerves, Jason ended up horribly portraying the dance through standing upright and shaking. 

This event triggered Jason's social anxiety. From that moment on, he experienced severe shakiness, sweating, and heart palpitations in social situations. Once during a showing of a mini movie project he had to leave the room he became so nervous. In college, the instances only became worse. In college he discussed with his mother that he wanted to drop out. 

Jason acknowledged his problem and began going to group therapy sessions. He was also enrolled in computerized cognitive behavioral therapy sessions or CCBT. He admits that in the start, he did go a little overboard with the therapy. Jason took 1-2 hours out of each day participating in the therapy, thrilled by how well it was working for him.

Through these therapies, Jason has overcome his social anxiety and would like for others to know that success is defined under your own terms and hopes that his story will inspire others to get the help that they deserve to defeat this disorder.