June is post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) awareness month. According to the National Center for PTSD, at least half of Americans have had a traumatic event in their lives and of these people 1 in 10 men and 2 and 10 women will develop PTSD. Types of traumatic events that can cause PTSD include:
- Combat and other military experiences
- Sexual or physical assault
- Learning about the violent or accidental death or injury of a loved one
- Child sexual or physical abuse
- Serious accidents, like a car wreck
- Natural disasters, like a fire, tornado, hurricane, flood, or earthquake
- Terrorist attacks
Anyone who has gone through something like this can develop PTSD.
What are the symptoms of PTSD?
There are four types of PTSD symptoms, but they may not be exactly the same for everyone. Each person experiences symptoms in their own way.
1. Reliving the event
Unwelcome thoughts about the trauma can come up at any time. They can feel very real and scary, as if the event is happening again. This is called a flashback. You may also have nightmares. Memories of the trauma can happen because of a trigger – something that reminds you of the event. For example, seeing a news report about a disaster may trigger someone who lived through a hurricane. Or hearing a car backfire might bring back memories of gunfire for a combat Veteran.
2. Avoiding things that remind you of the event
You may try to avoid certain people or situations that remind you of the event. For example, someone who was assaulted on the bus might avoid taking public transportation. Or a combat Veteran may avoid crowded places like shopping malls because it feels dangerous to be around so many people. You may also try to stay busy all the time so you don’t have to talk or think about the event.
3. Having more negative thoughts and feelings than before
You may feel more negative than you did before the trauma. You might be sad or numb – and lose interest in things you used to enjoy, like spending time with friends. You may feel that the world is dangerous and you can’t trust anyone. It may be hard for you to feel or express happiness, or other positive emotions. You might also feel guilt or shame about the traumatic event itself. For example, you may wish you had done more to keep it from happening.
4. Feeling on edge
It’s common to feel jittery or “keyed up” – like it’s hard to relax. This is called hyperarousal. You might have trouble sleeping or concentrating, or feel like you’re always on the lookout for danger. You may suddenly get angry and irritable – and if someone surprises you, you might startle easily. You may also act in unhealthy ways, like smoking, abusing drugs and alcohol, or driving aggressively.
How does PTSD affect buying life insurance?
PTSD can be acute, with symptoms disappearing spontaneously within three months, or it can be chronic lasting months or years. If there has been little to no interference with work, social activities, and domestic relationships, then PTSD is less likely to be disabling in the future and therefore will have more favorable life insurance underwriting. (Underwriting is the process in which the life insurance company evaluates your application to determine how much of a risk you are to insure. Your “risk class” determines your pricing.)
If you have a history of PTSD and you are applying for life insurance, the insurance company will review your medical history, your family health history, driving record, and will want to know how well you are functioning socially and in your home and workplace. The following factors could be considered unfavorable:
- Occupational instability
- Marital or family disharmony
- Alcohol or drug abuse
- Poor physical health
- Family history of mental disorders
- Short period of time since being diagnosed
- Behavior disturbance including violence
- Work-related pressures or financial difficulties
- Multiple or frequent changes in and higher doses of medications, hospitalization, use of electroconvulsive therapy (ET), and use of mood stabilizer medication such as lithium
- History of lost work or school time
- Any history of suicide attempts or gestures
- Other psychiatric or personality disorder diagnosis
The less “unfavorable” factors you have, the better risk class you’d be assigned to. However, even if you do have a history of some unfavorable factors, it does not mean you won’t be able to purchase life insurance. Life insurance companies want to insure as many people as they can, that’s why they have different levels of risk classes. You will have to pay higher premiums to offset their risk of insuring you, but term life insurance is still quite affordable.
To get a better understanding, see below for the different levels of risk classes.
|Risk Classes for Non-Tobacco Users|
|Risk Classes for Tobacco Users|
|Table Rating||How Pricing Is Determined|
|A||Standard + 25%|
|B||Standard + 50%|
|C||Standard + 75%|
|D||Standard + 100%|
|E||Standard + 125%|
|F||Standard + 150%|
|G||Standard + 175%|
|H||Standard + 200%|
Preferred Plus Non-Tobacco is the best possible risk class available. This essentially means there is very little risk to the insurance company to insure you – you’re healthy and your family history is relatively clean. In other words, you’re not dying any time soon.
Table ratings are assigned to applicants who have a few more risk factors associated with them that put them outside the standard risk class realm. Depending on the table rating you’re assigned, you’ll pay an additional percentage on top of the standard premium amount. Let’s take a look at a few examples.
John Doe is a 35-year-old Marine who was honorably discharged from active duty five years ago. When he returned home, he was having trouble sleeping and developed mild PTSD. He began seeing a psychologist and joined a gym to help release tension. His PTSD was well managed and only lasted a few months. His family is a strong support system and he has a steady job.
Otherwise healthy apart from the history of mild PTSD, John is a best case scenario for preferred ratings.
He applies for $500,000 in coverage with a 20-year term and is approved at Preferred Non-Tobacco. His monthly premiums will be approximately $28.
Jane Smith is a 40-year-old woman who developed PTSD after being attacked walking home at night from work two years ago. She had to take time off work for a couple weeks for fear of walking at night. She eventually rearranged her work schedule to avoid night shifts altogether.
Jane is currently being treated by a psychiatrist for her moderate to severe PTSD. She also takes the prescription Zoloft and it’s been very beneficial. While her disorder did initially affect her job, she is able to work steadily and has not had any panic attacks and her mood is upbeat.
She applies for $250,000 in coverage with a 20-year term and is approved at Standard Table B. Standard price ($30) + 50% means her monthly premiums will be approximately $45.
One benefit to working with Quotacy is that we are an independent agency, which means we have contracts with multiple life insurance companies and some of these carriers will rate a certain medical situation more favorably than others. The more companies you can get quotes from, the better your chances of getting a term policy at a great price. We have worked with many clients in the past with a history of PTSD and other anxiety and stress disorders. We can help you too. Start by getting a free term life insurance quote today – no personal contact information needed.
Photo credit to: Harman Abiwardani