CLARKSBURG, W.Va. — Monday marks national PTSD Awareness Day, a day to reflect on a mental illness common among veterans.

Post-traumatic stress disorder can present itself in a variety of ways, such as repeatedly thinking about traumatic events, daily intrusive thoughts and dreams or nightmares. Events that can cause PTSD could be a serious injury, acts of violence or witnessing a particular event.

Amanda Charlton-Fryer is the chief of psychology at the Louis A Johnson VA Medical Center in Clarksburg and has worked in the field of psychology for over 13 years. She said PTSD can flare up due to a variety of reasons.

“A lot of times people have these experiences, and they’re really suffering from the impact of trauma, and they really don’t know what it is or where to go. So sometimes, even just hearing something, or seeing it on a billboard, it may cause them to look further to find out more about PTSD,” Charlton-Fryer said.

Fireworks with houses in the foreground as silhouette – Getty Images

Fireworks can trigger PTSD in veterans who have seen combat, and Charlton-Fryer said she works with a lot of veterans who experience this phenomenon.

“Just being around those commonalities will bring back the combat or traumatic experiences for them. So hearing things that are similar, the sound from the fireworks, the smell, even that reverberation or feel from it can bring back a lot of memories for combat,” Charlton-Fryer said.

Charlton-Fryer said that even though the Fourth of July is supposed to be a celebration, it’s important to remember that for some people, it’s a celebration that can be triggering and that affected should have a game plan in advance in case of an emergency.

Even though PTSD isn’t a physical illness, there are still a variety of treatment options that can be effective. Cognitive Processing Therapy focuses on the thoughts in a patient that keep them stuck in a place they don’t want to be, and Prolonged Exposure Therapy focuses on the social avoidance people have after a traumatic event.

“Just know that help is out there, and not being reluctant to ask for that help is really important. And if it’s for someone that you care about, just really encouraging them that there are treatment options and that there is help,” Charlton-Fryer said.