What Is PTSD?
After a traumatic event, it is common to feel fearful, depressed, worried and detached. But if the distress persists, you may have post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). PTSD may occur after any event that causes a person to fear for their safety. The most prevalent cause of PTSD among men is military combat. But any incident or set of events that overwhelms you with emotions of hopelessness and helplessness and leaves you emotionally broken can cause PTSD, particularly if the experience feels unpredictable and out of your control.
PTSD can impact those who directly encounter a horrific incident, those who watch the event, and those who clean up the aftermath, such as emergency personnel and law enforcement officials. It can also manifest in the friends or relatives of people who experienced the initial trauma. By getting therapy, reaching out for support, and establishing new coping skills, you may learn to manage your PTSD symptoms, lessen traumatic memories, and go on with your life, regardless of the source of your PTSD.
What Causes PTSD?
Your nervous system responds to stressful situations with a fight-or-flight reaction. Your heart rate increases, your blood pressure rises, and your muscles contract, so enhancing your strength and response time. As soon as the threat has gone, your nervous system relaxes your body, reduces your heart rate and blood pressure, and returns you to your usual condition.
PTSD is caused by excessive stress in a certain setting. Your nervous system is “stuck,” unable to return to its usual level of equilibrium, and you are unable to move on from the incident. In order to recover from PTSD, you must assist your nervous system is being “unstuck” so that you may heal and move past the trauma.
PTSD vs. a Normal Response To Traumatic Events
Almost everyone suffers at least some PTSD symptoms after a stressful incident such as a natural catastrophe, traffic accident, terrorist attack, or assault. It is common to feel imbalanced, detached, or numb when one’s feeling of safety and trust is violated. Extremely prevalent are nightmares, feelings of dread, and the inability to stop thinking about what occurred. These are typical responses to abnormal occurrences.
For the majority of individuals, however, these symptoms are transient. They may last for days or even weeks, but they gradually subside. However, if you have post-traumatic stress disorder, your symptoms do not diminish, and you do not feel better each day. You may even begin to feel worse.
Signs And Symptoms of PTSD
PTSD develops differently in each individual since everyone’s neurological system and stress tolerance are unique. Although you are most likely to develop PTSD symptoms in the hours or days following a stressful experience, they may not manifest for weeks, months, or even years. Occasionally, symptoms emerge apparently out of nowhere. Occasionally, they are triggered by something that reminds you of the first traumatic incident, such as a sound, a picture, particular words, or a fragrance.
There are four primary categories of PTSD symptoms, despite the fact that each individual experiences the disorder differently.
- Reliving the trauma through intrusive memories, flashbacks, nightmares, or extreme emotional or bodily responses when reminded of the experience.
- Avoidance and numbness, such as avoiding anything that reminds you of the trauma, being unable to recall some elements of the suffering, a lack of interest in activities and life in general, feeling emotionally numb and distant from others, and a restricted sense of the future.
- Hyperarousal, which includes sleep disturbances, impatience, hypervigilance (on continual “red alert”), feeling jumpy or easily startled, furious outbursts, and aggressive, self-destructive, or risky conduct.
- Negative thinking and mood fluctuations, such as feeling alienated and alone, difficulties focusing or remembering, sadness, and anxiety, are symptoms of bipolar disorder.
PTSD Symptoms In Children
PTSD symptoms in children, particularly very young children, may differ from those of adults and include:
- Concern over separation from their parent.
- Loss of once-gained skills (such as toilet training).
- Sleep issues and nightmares.
- Tragic, obsessive play in which traumatic themes or characteristics are repeated.
- New fears and worries that do not appear to be tied to the experience (such as fear of monsters).
- Playing out the pain through storytelling, drawings, or games.
- Without obvious reason, aches, and pains
- Irritability and hostility
PTSD Risk Factors
While it is hard to anticipate who would develop PTSD as a result of stress, several risk factors enhance your susceptibility. Numerous risk factors center around the traumatic event itself. Traumatic situations are more likely to result in PTSD when they include a substantial threat to your life or personal safety: the more severe and protracted the threat, the greater the likelihood of having PTSD as a result. Intentionally inflicted damage, such as rape, assault, and torture, is typically more painful than “acts of God” or impersonal accidents and disasters. The degree to which the traumatic experience was unanticipated, unavoidable, and uncontrollable also has a role.
Other PTSD risk factors include:
- Prior traumatic events, particularly in childhood.
- History of PTSD or depression in the family.
- Abuse by physical or sexual means in the past
- Abuse of substances in the past.
- Anxiety, sadness, or another mental disorder in the past.
Types Of PTSD And Trauma
Symptoms of trauma or PTSD can come from a variety of traumatic situations, including military war, childhood neglect or abuse, racism, an accident, a natural disaster, or a personal tragedy.
PTSD In Military Veterans
Too many veterans returning from military duty must contend with PTSD symptoms. You may have difficulty readjusting to civilian life after leaving the military. Or you may feel continually on edge, emotionally numb and detached, or on the verge of panicking or erupting. But it’s vital to remember that you’re not alone, and there are several methods you may overcome nightmares and flashbacks, despair, worry, and guilt and reclaim your sense of control.
Emotional And Psychological Trauma
If a traumatic incident or succession of traumatic occurrences has left you feeling powerless and emotionally out of control, you may have been traumatized. Psychological trauma frequently has its origins in childhood, but any occurrence that shatters your sense of safety can leave you traumatized, including an accident, injury, the abrupt loss of a loved one, bullying, domestic violence, or a highly humiliating experience. Whether the traumatic event occurred years ago or just yesterday, you can overcome the suffering, regain your sense of safety, and go on with your life.
Rape or Sexual Trauma
The trauma of being raped or sexually attacked may be devastating, leaving victims feeling terrified, embarrassed, and alone, as well as haunted by nightmares, flashbacks, and other unpleasant memories. Nevertheless, it is essential to realize that you were not responsible for what occurred and that you may reclaim your sense of safety, trust, and self-worth.
Traumatic stress based on race is caused by exposure to racial abuse, discrimination, or injustice. It can cause anxiety, depression, chronic stress, high blood pressure, disordered eating, substance misuse, and even PTSD symptoms including hypervigilance, negative thoughts, and mood swings. However, there are strategies to improve your resilience and safeguard your mental health.
What is Complex PTSD (CPTSD)?
Complex post-traumatic stress disorder (CPTSD or C-PTSD) is frequently believed to be more severe than post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Chronic exposure to traumatic experiences causes it. For example, if you grew up in an abusive home, years of prolonged domestic abuse might lead to CPTSD. Those who endure protracted traumatic experiences, such as enslavement or torture, may also suffer from this illness.
CPTSD can cause many of the same symptoms of PTSD, including hypervigilance, flashbacks, and emotional numbness, in addition to:
- Negative ideas towards oneself. You have persistent feelings of worthlessness and deep humiliation.
- Difficulty regulating one’s emotions. You have extreme responses, are extremely sensitive, and struggle with rage. You may suffer dissociation, a sensation of detachment from the outside world.
- Difficulties in interpersonal connections. You have difficulty initiating or maintaining platonic and romantic relationships. Frequent feelings of loneliness exist.
- Complex PTSD and borderline personality disorder share several symptoms (BPD). Trauma may have a role in the development of BPD in many individuals.
PTSD Self-help Tip 1: Challenge Your Sense Of Helplessness
PTSD recovery is a lengthy, continual process. Healing does not occur overnight, nor do memories of the trauma ever totally evaporate. This may sometimes make life appear challenging. However, there are several ways to manage the lingering effects and minimize your worry and panic.
The key to recovering from PTSD is conquering your powerlessness. Trauma renders victims helpless and defenseless. It is essential to remind yourself that you possess the abilities and coping skills necessary to endure difficult circumstances.
Helping others is one of the greatest ways to regain your sense of power: volunteer your time, donate blood, reach out to a friend in need, or give to your favorite charity. Taking constructive action immediately combats the frequent symptom of PTSD, a feeling of powerlessness.
Tip 2: Get Moving
When you have PTSD, exercise can do more than enhance your mood and attitude by releasing endorphins. By paying close attention to your body and how it feels during movement, exercise can assist your nervous system get “unstuck” and beginning to move out of the immobilizing stress reaction. Try:
Walking, running, swimming, and dancing are examples of rhythmic exercises that utilize the arms and legs. Focus on how your body feels instead of how your mind feels. Consider, for instance, the sensation of your feet striking the ground, the rhythm of your breathing, or the sense of the wind on your skin.
Rock climbing, boxing, weightlifting, or martial arts are all excellent physical activities. These activities can make it easy to concentrate on your body motions; if you don’t, you could injure yourself otherwise.
Spending time outside. Outdoor sports such as hiking, camping, mountain biking, rock climbing, whitewater rafting, and skiing aid soldiers in coping with PTSD symptoms and adjusting to life in civilian society. Those with PTSD can benefit from the tranquility, solitude, and relaxation that come with being in nature. Seek local groups that provide possibilities for outdoor recreation or team building.
Tip 3: Reach Out To Others For Support
PTSD can lead to feelings of alienation from others. You may be inclined to isolate yourself from social activities and loved ones. But it is essential to maintain relationships with life and those who care about you. You are not required to discuss the trauma, but the compassionate support and company of others are essential to your healing. Reach out to someone you can connect with for an extended amount of time, someone who will listen without judging, condemning, or being frequently distracted. This someone might be your significant other, a family member, a close friend, or a licensed therapist. You might also:
Volunteering your time or reaching out to a friend in need are acts of kindness. Not only is this a terrific way to interact with people, but it may also help you regain a sense of control.
Joining a support group for PTSD. This can make you feel less alone and lonely, as well as provide essential knowledge on how to manage symptoms and work toward recovery.
Tip 4: Support PTSD Treatment with a Healthy Lifestyle
It is crucial to take care of yourself and adopt healthy living choices since the symptoms of PTSD can be taxing on your body.
Spend time relaxing. Meditation, deep breathing, massage, and yoga are relaxation therapies that help trigger the body’s relaxation response and alleviate PTSD symptoms.
Avoid drinking and drugs. You may be tempted to self-medicate with alcohol or drugs when you’re coping with challenging emotions and terrible experiences. However, drug abuse exacerbates many PTSD symptoms, interferes with therapy, and can exacerbate interpersonal issues.
Consume a nutritious diet. Start the day off well with breakfast, then eat balanced, healthy meals throughout the day to maintain your energy and mental clarity. Include foods such as fatty salmon, flaxseed, and walnuts in your diet, since omega-3s play an important role in mental wellness. Limit your consumption of processed foods, fried foods, refined carbohydrates, and sweets, which can increase mood swings and create energy changes.
Get adequate sleep. Sleep deprivation can induce rage, impatience, and irritation. Aim for between seven and nine hours of sleep every night. Develop a tranquil night routine (listen to soothing music, watch a hilarious program, or read something light) and make your bedroom as peaceful, dark, and silent as possible.
Getting Professional Help for PTSD
If you feel that you or a loved one is suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder, you should get care immediately. It is simpler to overcome PTSD the sooner it is addressed. Remember that PTSD is not a sign of weakness and that the only way to overcome it is to address what occurred and embrace it as part of your history. With the advice and assistance of a seasoned therapist or physician, this procedure is considerably easier.
It is normal to wish to escape uncomfortable memories and emotions. But PTSD can worsen if you attempt to numb yourself and put your memories away. You cannot entirely avoid your emotions; they surface under stress or anytime you let your guard down, and trying to do so is taxing. The avoidance will impair your relationships, your capacity to operate, and the quality of your life in the long run.
Why You Should Seek Help for PTSD
Earlier therapy is preferable. PTSD symptoms may worsen. Dealing with them now may prevent them from deteriorating in the future. Learning more about effective therapies, where to get assistance, and the kind of questions to ask can facilitate obtaining assistance and improve outcomes.
PTSD symptoms can alter family relationships. PTSD symptoms might interfere with family relationships. You may find yourself withdrawing from loved ones, being unable to get along with others, or becoming furious or even aggressive. Receiving treatment for PTSD can enhance your family life.
PTSD may be associated with other health concerns. PTSD symptoms might exacerbate physical health issues. For instance, research has demonstrated a link between PTSD and cardiac problems. Receiving treatment for PTSD may also enhance your physical health.
PTSD Treatment and Therapy
PTSD treatment can alleviate symptoms by assisting you in processing the trauma you have encountered. A physician or therapist will urge you to recollect and work through the feelings you had during the initial occurrence in order to lessen the memory’s grip on your life.
You will also examine your thoughts and feelings about the trauma, work through feelings of shame and distrust, learn how to manage intrusive memories, and address the challenges PTSD has produced in your relationships throughout therapy.
The Following Treatments Are Available For PTSD:
Trauma-focused cognitive-behavioral treatment is progressively “exposing” oneself to sensations and events that remind one of the trauma and replacing distorted and irrational thinking about the experience with a more reasonable perspective.
Family counseling may help your loved ones understand what you are going through and assist you in resolving relationship issues as a unit.
Medication is occasionally administered to persons with PTSD to alleviate secondary symptoms of sadness or anxiety, but these medications do not cure the underlying causes of PTSD.
EMDR (Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing) combines cognitive-behavioral therapy aspects with eye movements or other types of rhythmic, left-right stimulation, such as hand taps or noises. The procedures of EMDR treatment function by “unfreezing” the brain’s information processing mechanism, which is disrupted during times of intense stress.
Finding A Therapist For PTSD
Seek mental health practitioners specializing in treating trauma and PTSD while searching for a therapist. Call a local mental health clinic, psychiatric hospital, or counseling facility, or consult your doctor or other trauma survivors for a referral.
In addition to credentials and expertise, it is essential to choose a PTSD therapist that makes you feel secure and comfortable. Follow your intuition; if a therapist doesn’t seem right, find elsewhere. For therapy to be effective, you must feel at ease and understood.