Post Traumatic Stress Disorder is commonly described as a mental health disorder that follows a traumatic event such as war, assault, or a disaster.
Many psychologists now consider PTSD a growing problem in American society, but it's an affliction that isn't restricted to war veterans.
If left untreated it can have a harmful ripple effect across all aspects of a person's life.
Recognizing the signs of PTSD and providing those who suffer from it with effective treatment was the focus of a conference in Bakersfield Tuesday night.
The Rotary Clubs of Kern County and the National Alliance on Mental Health - Front Line sponsored the conference. Their goal is to raise awareness within our community.
"A feeling of hopelessness, emptiness, a lot of anger."
Those were the feelings Chris Allen had after nearly losing his life and watching his best friend die after being attacked in Iraq.
Lieutenant Colonel Roy Speaks, a Garces High graduate, says his life changed forever after serving in a war zone.
"If you go and you come back, you suffer. You are changed. Ask my wife. I'm changed. I'm not the same guy I was seven, eight, nine years ago before I did three tours in a war zone," said Speaks.
Current estimates are roughly 30 percent of our returning war vets suffer from PTSD to some degree.
But, the disorder doesn't just affect those who've served in a war zone.
"I have been diagnosed with PTSD, and mine stemmed from my father who was a World War II and Korean War veteran. Back then they didn't talk about anything," said Patrice Maniaci of NAMI Kern County's Front Line.
Maniaci says her father took out his suffering on the family and caused plenty of emotional trauma in her life.
But, PTSD can also be found in people who witness terrible accidents or were robbed or raped.
And, then there are the first responders - police, firefighters, even nurses.
"The Rotary Clubs of Bakersfield/Kern County are interested in helping first responders which include firemen, EMTs, police officers. They are also our courageous warriors in the community and often don't address their PTSD," said Russ Sempell of NAMI Kern County's Front Line.
About half the people at the conference were nursing students looking to learn the warning signs of PTSD so when they see patients, they can act as the first line of defense in getting people with PTSD the proper treatment they need.
If you or a loved one may be suffering from PTSD, call 303-1416 to learn more and get help.