Independence Day Fireworks May Cause PTSD Episode

Independence Day.  The day we, together as a nation, celebrate our country’s freedom.  Fourth of July activities include enormous town and city celebrations or intimate backyard barbecues, homemade ice cream and the pop, crack and colors of fireworks.  While the explosion of fireworks may be festive for some, they may cause painful flashbacks for those suffering from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD).

PTSD can occur after any traumatic event such as sexual or physical abuse (as a child or as an adult), a terrorist attack, serious accidents, military combat or natural disasters.  Even the sudden death of a loved one can cause PTSD.  It is normal to feel afraid during and after a traumatic experience and the event may trigger a “fight or flight” response.  But, not everyone who experiences a traumatic episode will develop PTSD.

Symptoms of PTSD typically appear immediately after a traumatic event, but can also develop over time.  According to the National Institute of Mental Health, to be diagnosed with PTSD an adult must have all of the following types of symptoms for at least one month:

  1. Reliving the event (also called re-experiencing symptoms)
  2. Avoiding situations that remind you of the event
  3. Negative changes in beliefs and feelings
  4. Feeling keyed up (also called hyper-arousal)

If you or a loved one are experiencing any of these symptoms, it is important to see a medical or behavioral health specialist immediately.

Approximately 70 percent of adults experience a traumatic event.  Of those, 20 percent will develop PTSD.  That equates to 44.7 million today that suffer from PTSD. Eight percent of Americans, or 24.4 million, suffer from PTSD on a given day.  Women are twice as likely as men to develop PTSD with one woman to nine men being diagnosed.  The number of U.S. veterans with PTSD is higher than in the general population.  From Operations Iraqi Freedom and Enduring Freedom, approximately 20% have PTSD in comparison to 8 percent of the general population.

The loud reports and flashes of light that accompany fireworks can trigger memories of some traumatic occurrence and cause anxiety, panic attacks and flashbacks. Be mindful this year of the use of fireworks in your celebration, so that it will be a Happy Independence Day for everyone!