PTSD can affect many individuals and isn’t something that only happens to folks who have served in the army and gone to war, but it’s much more than that. PTSD can anybody who has undergone a traumatic experience; for example, individuals who have lived through stressful situations such as a divorce, an abusive spouse, or even a fire that burned their house down. This can cause sleepless nights that in turn affects your daily routine and translates to you being more irritable to family and friends. At times it might come across as though you’ve no self-control. PTSD can result in random outbursts, physical abuse on others or yourself or even, in worst case scenarios, suicide.
Post-traumatic stress disorder, commonly dubbed as PTSD, is an anxiety disorder a person may experience following a traumatic event involving the threat of death or personal injury, causing extreme fear, terror, or hopelessness. Symptoms of PTSD may present as early as within the first month following the traumatic event or as long as several months or years later. It’s important for a person with PTSD to be treated by a mental health professional experienced in working with PTSD.
What Are PTSD Symptoms?
1. Re-experiencing the Event
Most people who experience PTSD continue to re-experience the traumatic event that caused their PTSD. The event may be experienced through flashbacks. Flashbacks can be fleeting glimpses of memory or be as vivid as if watching a movie of the event. Intrusive memories or thoughts are another way the traumatic event is experienced. A person may be unable to control these thoughts. They may surface at any time regardless of the individual’s situation or current emotional state. Nightmares of the traumatic event are common upon waking; the person may experience physical sensations triggered by and associated with the event. They may also awaken, experiencing extreme fear and anxiety.
2. Avoidance and Numbness
PTSD sufferers may try to avoid thinking or talking about the event. Avoidance of people, places, and activities that are reminders of the trauma are also common. Numbness may be experienced in different ways. A person may feel emotionally numb, experience feelings of hopelessness about the future, and have difficulty with memory and concentration. At times this numbing can lead to the social and emotional detachment from friends and family members. In some extreme cases, the person will suppress all memories of the traumatic event.
3. Increased Arousal
Symptoms of increased arousal are emotional responses that occur following a traumatic event. Feeling on edge and being easily startled or frightened can lead to prolonged anxiety, causing sleep difficulties. Some people experience difficulty concentrating on tasks or projects in a variety of settings. Increased anger and irritability are emotions that commonly surface and aid in avoiding emotions related to the traumatic event.
Five Treatments for Post-traumatic Stress Disorder
Dealing with past traumatic events can be difficult, and you might keep your feelings to yourself instead of expressing them to others. Talking with a counsellor can be helpful.
Treatment for PTSD entails a combination of medication and psychotherapy. With this combination of treatments, your symptoms may improve while learning to utilize various coping mechanisms to deal with the traumatic event and its effects on your life. There’re five basic psychotherapy approaches used in treating PTSD.
1. Cognitive Therapy
In cognitive therapy, your therapist will help you discover thought patterns related to your trauma and help you identify and challenge ways of thinking that cause you stress and interfere with healthy living. Your therapist will help you replace your limiting thoughts with less distressing thoughts. You will learn ways to cope with feelings such as guilt, anger and fear. Cognitive therapy helps you understand your thoughts and perspective of the event, reducing unnecessary feelings of guilt.
2. Exposure Therapy
Exposure therapy is a behaviorally-based technique that helps you safely face what you’re frightened of, so you can learn ways to cope more effectively. When you have PTSD, it’s common to be afraid of scenarios, feelings or thoughts that trigger your traumatic event. The goal of exposure therapy is for you to experience less fear of your memories. When processing the trauma in a safe environment with your therapist, you can change how you react to the memories while practicing different ways to relax.
Eye movement desensitization and reprocessing (EMDR) is a type of therapy used to treat PTSD. It’s a combination of hand taps, sounds, guided eye movement, and exposure therapy to help you process traumatic memories. The objective of EMDR like to other types of therapy, is to help shift how you respond to traumatic recalls.
4. Group Therapy
You might find it helpful to talk about your trauma with others who have had similar experiences. In group therapy, you will talk with others who have been through trauma and have PTSD. Sharing your experience and building relationships with others can help you cope with your memories, emotions, and symptoms and help you build trust and self-confidence.
There are a variety of medications that have been used to treat PTSD. They help reduce sadness and worry. When you’re depressed, you might not have enough of a chemical called serotonin. Antidepressant medication increase the serotonin level in your brain. Other types of medications like cannabis have been successful, as well.
Though cannabis at times gets labelled as a feel-good substance, it can effectively eliminate nightmares linked with PTSD. For instance, recent studies show that smoking medical cannabis reduced daytime flashbacks and improved overall sleep-quality in PTSD patients. Other products like the Blue Lotus at Zamnesia can have similar calming effects.
PTSD is very common in those who have served in the armed forces and can occur as the result of any trauma in life. Help is available.