Is it just me, or are we all becoming more annoying than ever? Or maybe, just maybe, we’re all dealing with excessive amounts of PTSD. I have PTSD from previous trauma, and I’ll bet many of you reading have it too.
Here are a few facts about PTSD. A survey conducted between 2001 and 2004 shows an overall prevalence of PTSD of 3.6%. Women have a much higher rate of PTSD than men — 5.6% for women and 1.8% for men. Also, adults between 45–60 have the highest rates of PTSD. Furthermore, of those who reported PTSD symptoms, 36.6% show very severe impairment in their lives. These numbers are just for 2001–2004; I can’t imagine what the rates are like now.
Well, actually, let me share with you some more current research. A study done in 2017 shows the lifetime rate of PTSD in adults is 6.8%. Also, of those who experience early childhood adverse events, the likelihood of developing PTSD is 25–30%. Also, any adverse event that is overwhelming to the individual has the potential to cause PTSD.
Again, these numbers are still a bit older. I can only imagine the research that will come out of this past year and what it’s done to people. PTSD is a complicated condition to identify, manage and treat. PTSD rewires the nervous system causing changes that can last forever. The only treatment available is counseling and medication. Unfortunately, getting mental health treatment right now is rather difficult. Either the services are not available, or they are too expensive, or people feel too stigmatized to access them.
And what are the symptoms of PTSD?
- Emotional outbursts and unexplainable anger
- Severe emotional distress from triggers
- Avoiding places or people
- Negativity about oneself or the world
- Difficulty maintaining close relationships
- Detachment or lack of interest in life activities
- Dissociation, going numb
- Irritability and easy to startle
- Addictive behaviors
- Trouble sleeping
These symptoms are just to name a few. And guess what else is common with PTSD? The symptoms are more intense with high levels of stress. Well, jeez, it seems we’ve had a lot of that this past year don’t you think? I can say with certainty that in my family and friend circle, PTSD symptoms are a constant thing we’re all juggling, almost all of the time. Given the symptoms above and what I’ve observed in daily life, I think many people are doing the same.
The side-effects of PTSD are such that it makes us, well, rather annoying. I say that tongue-in-cheek because “annoying” is a judgmental term, but I use it to make a point. Many of us feel annoyed by all the annoying behavior, yet no one thinks that maybe our PTSD is super activated. I don’t need to spell it out; it’s been a tough year and a half for all of us.
Here’s another tongue-in-cheek observation — what do you get when you put two people with PTSD together? Lots and lots of annoying behavior. As if we didn’t have enough triggers from the pandemic, we can trigger each other pretty nicely, thank you very much. My wife and I talk about this quite a bit as we are really good at triggering each other as well.
The point is, I think we need to cut each other a lot more slack because we are only going to get more annoying as time goes on.
This past year we’ve seen a considerable rise in mental health issues and addiction, and no doubt, that is making PTSD much worse. One pandemic review of research shows that rates of depression symptoms were as high as 48.3%, PTSD was as high as 53.8%, and severe stress was as high as 81.9%. These numbers are alarming but not surprising. I think we can all see ourselves in the research quite a bit.
But what do we do about it? Well, we definitely need to keep talking about the importance of mental health care and the devastating effects that mental illness and PTSD have on our lives. The disability burden from mental health issues, including PTSD, has significantly increased over the last decade. In 1990, over 30 million people lost years due to a mental health disability. And in 2017, that number increased to over 45 million.
At this point, there are not many people who can say they don’t know someone who has a severe mental health issue or PTSD. It’s either ourselves suffering or someone we know. And the data doesn’t even capture more mild forms of illness that people don’t want to report.
The other thing we can do is observe the people around us, step back from their behavior and remember that the number of people suffering is very high right now. And if we look back on the symptoms of PTSD, we can start to form a coherent picture of other’s behaviors. It’s not the time for judgement or anger; perhaps what is needed is space to calm down and process all of this. We also need to learn to be more understanding of each other’s annoying traits. Not that we put up with abusive behavior, but maybe we don’t need to get into a screaming match with people over stuff that doesn’t matter.
PTSD and mental health issues may make us a little annoying, and it’s about to get worse. I write this as much for myself as I do for you. We are all a little broken right now, but perhaps it’s a pretty normal reaction to all that 2020 and part of 2021 has thrown at us.