Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder
What is Post Traumatic Stress Disorder?
Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is a disorder that can develop following a traumatic event that threatens your safety or makes you feel helpless. Most people associate PTSD with battle and military combat is the most common cause in men--but any overwhelming life experience can trigger PTSD, especially if the event is perceived as unpredictable and uncontrollable. PTSD is a response by normal people to an abnormal situation such as: (especially in children.)
Some common causes are:
• War / Combat
• Natural disasters
• A car or plane crash
• Violent assault
• Sexual or physical abuse
• Medical procedures (especially in kids)
After a traumatic experience, the mind and the body are in shock. But as you make sense of what happened and process your emotions, you come out of it. With post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), however, you remain in psychological shock. Your memory of what happened and your feelings about it are disconnected. In order to move on, it’s important to face and feel your memories and emotions.
The symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) can arise suddenly, gradually, or come and go over time. Sometimes symptoms appear seemingly out of the blue. At other times, they are triggered by something that reminds you of the original traumatic event, such as a noise, an image, certain words, or a smell. While everyone experiences PTSD differently, there are three main types of symptoms, as listed below.
Re-experiencing the traumatic event
• Intrusive, upsetting memories of the event
• Flashbacks (acting or feeling like the event is happening again)
• Nightmares (either of the event or of other frightening things)
• Feelings of intense distress when reminded of the trauma
• Intense physical reactions to reminders of the event (e.g. pounding heart, rapid breathing, nausea, muscle tension, sweating)
Avoidance and emotional numbing
• Avoiding activities, places, thoughts, or feelings that remind you of the trauma
• Inability to remember important aspects of the trauma
• Loss of interest in activities and life in general
• Feeling detached from others and emotionally numb
• Sense of a limited future (you don’t expect to live a normal life span, get married, have a career)
• Difficulty concentrating
• Difficulty falling or staying asleep
• Irritability or outbursts of anger
• Hyper-vigilance (on constant alert)
• Feeling jumpy and easily startled
Other common symptoms:
• Substance abuse
• Anger and irritability
• Feeling alienated and alone
• Guilt, shame, or self-blame
• Depression and hopelessness
• Suicidal thoughts and feelings
• Feelings of mistrust and betrayal
• Headaches, stomach problems, chest pain
If you suspect that you or a loved one has post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), it’s important to seek help right away. The sooner PTSD is confronted, the easier it is to overcome. It’s not unusual to resist getting help. Keep in mind that PTSD is not a sign of weakness, and the only way to overcome it is to confront what happened to you and learn to accept it as a part of your past. This process is much easier with the guidance and support of an experienced therapist or doctor.
Treatment for PTSD typically begins with a detailed evaluation, and development of a treatment plan that meets the unique needs of the survivor. PTSD-specific-treatment begins only when the survivor is safely removed from the crisis situation.
The Circle of Life Counseling Center uses several methods in the treatment of PTSD; EMDR (Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing), Cognitive Behavioral Therapy and/or family therapy in the treatment of PTSD.
Other strategies for treatment include:
Educating trauma survivors and their families about how persons get PTSD, how PTSD affects survivors and their loved ones, and other problems commonly associated with PTSD symptoms. Understanding that PTSD is a medically recognized anxiety disorder is essential for effective treatment.
Exposure to the event via imagery allows the survivor to re-experience the event in a safe, controlled environment. A professional can carefully examine reactions and beliefs in relation to that event.
Examining and resolving strong feelings such as shame, anger, or guilt, which are common among survivors of trauma.
Teaching the survivor to cope with post-traumatic memories, reminders, reactions, and feelings without becoming overwhelmed or emotionally numb. Trauma memories usually do not go away entirely as a result of therapy, but new coping skills can make them more manageable.
A number of medications that were originally approved for depression have been found effective in healing posttraumatic stress disorder. If an antidepressant is prescribed, it will need to be taken for several weeks before symptoms start to fade. It is important not to get discouraged and stop taking these medications before they've had a chance to work.