I hear people diagnosing themselves with PTSD all the time. It feels like everyone and their brother has PTSD, but what I found is when you probe a bit deeper into their traumatic experience in which they claim has cause a disorder, you find that they went through something hurtful, scary, terifiying even and they want to put some language to how it still impacts them to this day. A more fitting description for what they're experiencing is a triggered response, something that is compeletly normal that every human walking this planet has.
According to the American Psychiatric Association, PTSD can occur in all people, any ethnicity, culture or age, but if affects only 3.5 percent of U.S. adults. One in 11 adults will be formally diagnosed in their lifetime. PTSD is charachterized by flashbacks, nightmares, severe anxiety, and/or uncontrollable thoughts about the event.
So here's an example to lay out the difference between a triggered response and PTSD.
I used to live with rats. I had a small appartment above a barn and at first I was completely unaware of the growing rat infestation. It started to become apparent when I discovered rat droppings in my closet. I put out a couple traps and searched the apartment for entry holes. Little did I know this was not "a couple traps" kind of job. I woke up one morning to droppings on my kitchen counter, and one afternoon, I found one single rat poop on my pillow. ON MY MOTHER FLIPPIN PILLOW. Like dude was in my bed.
I cleaned constantly, as I waited for the landloard to take action, but I just couldn't translate how bad it was, and that drastic intervention was needed. They came out in forces at night. I could hear the scurrying and scraping of their little claws on the wood floors. They were right under the bed, squeeking and scractching. I laid awake, scared, disgusted, paralyzed until morning when activity died down. I never felt clean, even after a shower I would grab a towel from the cubbord and see rat turds. I finally left and said I wasn't coming back until the problem was solved.
I wanted to take my skin off and soak it in a bucket of bleach for a week before putting it back on.
To this day, if I even see a single mouse poop near anything close to inside the house, I get extreme anxiety, start to sweat, and suit up for war. I do not have PTSD.
In fact, I have endured a lot of trauma in my life, trauma that affects me to this day, but I don't suffer from PTSD. I have a triggered response when I see a rat, but I don't have nightmares, flashback or uncontrollable thoughts without someone first bringing up rats. Just the mention of rats affects me differently than it does most people, but it still isn't PTSD, and I don't call it that because those who suffer with PTSD have a disorder that should be taken seriously, and every time we assign our trivial anxieties to PTSD we take away from those who are dibilitated in their daily lives from traumatic events that haunt them every day.