Post-traumatic stress disorder, or PTSD, is a mental health condition that develops in some people after extremely traumatic events, such as combat, crime, an accident, or natural disaster. About 8% percent of people in the U.S will experience PTSD.
What are the Symptoms of PTSD?
Symptoms can start within one month or several years after a traumatic event. Symptoms sometimes affect a person’s ability to perform normal daily tasks and maintain healthy relationships. The four types of symptoms include: intrusive memories, avoidance, negative changes in thinking and mood, and changes in physical and emotional reactions.
- Recurrent, unwanted painful memories of the traumatic event
- Flashbacks of the traumatic event
- Upsetting dreams or nightmares about the traumatic event
- Severe emotional distress or physical reactions to something that reminds you of the traumatic event
- Trying to avoid thinking or talking about the traumatic event
- Avoiding places, activities or people that remind you of the traumatic event
Negative Changes in Thinking and Mood
- Negative thoughts about yourself, people or the world
- Hopelessness about the future
- Memory problems, including not remembering important aspects of the traumatic event
- Difficulty maintaining close relationships
- Feeling detached from family and friends
- Lack of interest in activities you once enjoyed
- Difficulty experiencing positive emotions
- Feeling emotionally numb
Changes in Physical and Emotional Reactions (Arousal Symptoms)
- Easily startled or frightened
- Always being on guard for danger
- Self-destructive behavior such as abusing drugs
- Trouble sleeping
- Trouble concentrating
- Irritability, angry outbursts or aggressive behavior
- Overwhelming guilt or shame
Children six years old and younger may display symptoms mentioned above but may experience these symptoms as well:
- Re-enacting the traumatic event or aspects of the traumatic event through during playtime
A mental health professional or a doctor should be contacted if disturbing thoughts and feelings about the traumatic experience have lasted more than a month or symptoms have intensified. If there are suicidal thoughts, please seek immediate help by contacting the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (1-800-273-8255) to reach a trained counselor. Use that same number and press 1 to reach the Veterans Crisis Line. Regain a sense of control by seeking help. There are different ways to treat PTSD, which will be explained in depth by a doctor. The primary treatment is psychotherapy, but treatment could also include medication. A combination of these treatments can help improve your life and decrease symptoms.
A mental health professional will help determine what treatment is more effective. Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) helps bring to the surface ongoing negative thought patterns that are not conducive to living a healthy life. Exposure therapy confronts situations, and memories head-on. Instead of suffering silently, healthy coping skills are taught to deal with these situations and memories in a healthier way. Eye movement desensitization and reprocessing (EMDR) combines exposure therapy with a process that uses guided eye movements to help process trauma.
Antidepressants can help decrease symptoms of depression and anxiety. This medication can also improve sleep patterns and increase concentration. Anti-Anxiety medication can help decrease symptoms of severe anxiety.
Coping and Support
There are some coping skills that can be implemented, along with psychotherapy and medication. Going through the traumatic event was probably the hardest thing to go through, and getting help to recover may be the second. While this is true, it is important to follow the treatment plan and communicate with a doctor about what is working and what is not so that adjustments can be made. One of the best ways to get through a disorder like PTSD is becoming knowledgeable about the details of what the disorder really is. This knowledge can help aid in developing healthy coping strategies. Making some lifestyle changes like getting enough rest, eating a healthy diet and exercising can aid in decreasing symptoms. A tempting way to cope is through drugs and alcohol to numb your feelings, but this coping mechanism could lead to even bigger problems down the road. It is important to remember to avoid isolation. Reaching out to family and friends will be a huge help and support. Another way to find support is to research or talk to your mental health professional about local support groups that you can join.
What to do When a Loved One has PTSD?
Learn about PTSD to become more understanding of what a loved one is going through. Become aware of the signs, including avoidance and withdrawal. Realize that a loved one may resist help or isolate themselves. Offer to attend medical appointments or plan out activities with family and friends. Part of being understanding is not taking their actions personal and giving the loved one space if needed. If they are ready to talk about their experience, be sure to be there to listen. Unfortunately, there may come a time when a loved one acts out violently. Seek out a safe place immediately if this occurs.
Kyle ER & Hospital is here to support your whole family. There is no need to suffer silently alone. There are many treatment options available to help decrease symptoms of PTSD. Consult a doctor to determine the best route to recovery. It is important to seek help for you or for a loved one immediately so that healing can take place.
Disclaimer: As a service to our readers, Kyle ER & Hospital and Nutex Health state no content on this site, regardless of date, should ever be used as a substitute for direct medical advice from your doctor or other qualified clinicians.
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