The advice of a Durango licensed therapist for people suffering all types of post-traumatic stress disorder is: Don't try to tough it out.
"People who experience post-traumatic stress disorder as the result of a trauma often don't seek help because society tends to say, 'Pull yourself up by the bootstraps,'" Linda Lute said in an interview Friday. "But they're not alone. They're simply experiencing symptoms that they don't know how to handle."
There is help available, said Lute, executive vice president of special behavioral health at the Southwest Colorado Mental Health Center. Lute, a columnist for The Durango Herald, has worked 27 years in mental health, 16 of them in Durango.
Post-traumatic stress disorder, commonly called PTSD, is a set of symptoms that crosses all gender, age and economic lines, Lute said.
"There is no cookbook with a recipe," she said.
As defined by the American Psychiatric Association, PTSD is an actual or potential life-threatening event that is persistently re-experienced and can cause sleep disorders, irritability, exaggerated vigilance and avoidance of stimuli associated with the traumatic event.
PTSD can be triggered by military combat, severe sexual abuse, domestic violence, an automobile accident, rape or a mugging, Lute said. The list of symptoms includes nightmares, flashbacks, a feeling of isolation, apathy, anxiety, despondency, depression or loss of affection. The symptoms can last a lifetime, with the triggering event remaining as vivid as the day it occurred.
"Flashbacks can involve all the senses - olfactory, visual, tactile," Lute said.
People who suffer PTSD often feel as if they don't fit in. They tend to self-medicate through drugs or alcohol to mask the symptom, Lute said. Military veterans tend to hang out with other veterans because of shared experiences.
"When you feel alone, it's an isolating place to be," Lute said. "What is important is to know is that help is available through public agencies, veterans organizations or private therapists."