Affecting every one in 11 people and more than 7.7 million Americans, Posttraumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) is a serious mental health condition that’s triggered by traumatic events like a natural disaster, a serious accident, a sudden death, war/combat, a terrorist act, rape, or any other violent personal assault. Usually termed as an anxiety disorder, PTSD can occur in people who have either witnessed a traumatizing event or experienced it.
People with PTSD have intense, disturbing thoughts and find it difficult to adjust with everyday stress, which in turn severely affects their day-to-day functioning.
Symptoms and Diagnosis of Posttraumatic Stress Disorder
The symptoms of Posttraumatic Stress Disorder include flashbacks, nightmares, severe anxiety, and uncontrollable thoughts about the event. The symptoms usually start within a month of a traumatic event, but can even show up years after the event. PTSD affects people of all ages, young and old, and initially shows up as strong negative reaction to everyday events like loud noises, accidental touch and more.
A person may be suffering from PTSD if he experiences or displays any of the following four types of symptoms:
- Repeated, unwanted memories of the traumatic event
- Stressful dreams/ nightmares about the event
- Flashbacks of the event
- Avoiding people, places, and activities that remind you of the traumatic event
- Avoiding thinking or talking about the event
- Negative thoughts about yourself, other people or the world
- Feeling of hopelessness
- Feeling detached from family and friends
- Difficulty in maintaining relationships
- Lack of interest in activities you previously enjoyed
Altered physical and emotional reactions
- Being easily startled or frightened
- Self-destructive behavior – heavy drinking, fast driving, and suicidal thoughts and tendencies
- Disturbed/troubled sleep
- Problems while concentrating
- Aggressive behavior, severe irritability, and angry outbursts
- Irresistible guilt or shame
Children 6 years or below can even display PTSD symptoms by re-enacting the traumatic event through role play or through frightening dreams.
Issues Associated with PTSD
PTSD may also increase your risk for other mental health problems, like:
- Depression and anxiety
- Drugs or substance abuse
- Eating disorders
- Suicidal thoughts and tendencies
Treatment and Therapies for PTSD
While it’s normal to experience upsetting and confusing thoughts after an unpleasant event, most people improve naturally over a few weeks. However, the situation becomes grave if the symptoms of PTSD do not subside over time (if they last more than 4 weeks). In such cases, mental health counseling with an expert psychiatrist is strongly advised.
Psychiatrists and mental health professionals use a variety of effective techniques to help people recover from PTSD. These include:
Medication: Mental health specialists use a powerful combination of various antidepressant drugs like SSRIs and SNRIs (selective serotonin re-uptake inhibitors and selective norepinephrine re-uptake inhibitors) to inhibit or treat the symptoms of PTSD. Other medicines are also sometimes used to lower anxiety and treat sleep apnea – two conditions quite common in PTSD patients.
Psychotherapy: Also known as talk therapy, psychotherapy provides an effective evidence-based treatment for PTSD. It involves talking with a mental health professional to relieve stress, pacify the trauma caused due to an unwelcoming event, and treat a mental illness. Performed either individually or in a group, psychotherapy sessions last from 6 to 12 weeks or even longer depending upon the condition of the patient.
Cognitive behavior therapy is one of the most effective forms of psychotherapy that is popularly used to treat PTSD.
Beyond Treatment – How PTSD Patients can Help Themselves?
While a PTSD patient may find it difficult to take the first step himself, it is important to understand that he only way to cure PTSD is by talking about it. If you are suffering from PTSD, it is important for you to:
- Take control of your health and get yourself screened for PTSD
- Talk about your problems, challenges, and fears with your friends and family
- Seek professional help from an expert mental health specialist and learn about the various treatment options
- Set realistic goals for yourself
- Participate in group activities and spend time with people you can confide in
- Engage in mild physical activity to reduce stress
Remember, PTSD is completely curable. The earlier the person gets the treatment, the sooner are the chances of his recovery.
This PTSD Awareness Day, take a pledge and help yourself and your loved ones suffering from PTSD. Share our article thorough your social media channels and help them take an informed, first step to connected care for effective treatment and timely cure of PTSD.