What is PTSD Disorder? Overview Of PTSD:
Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is a mental health condition where you struggle to recover long after you experience or witness a deeply terrifying event.
About half of American adults experience at least one traumatic event in their lives. While many people have a difficult time coping in the wake of trauma, only a small portion go on to develop PTSD.
Here, learn more know about PTSD, including symptoms to look out for, what causes it, how to receive a diagnosis, PTSD treatment options, and more.
It’s common to experience distressing memories and feelings immediately after a traumatic event and from time to time as life goes on. However, for people living with PTSD, these intrusions last longer and disrupt your ability to function in day-to-day life.
Symptoms of PTSD fall into four categories and include:
- Repeated, unwanted memories of the traumatic event
- Recurrent nightmares
- Flashbacks as if you’re re-living the traumatic experience
- Severe distress when you’re reminded of the event
- Physical reactions to reminders of the event such as increased heart rate or sweating
- Avoiding thoughts or feelings of the traumatic event
- Staying away from reminders of trauma such as people, places, objects, or situations
- Resisting conversations about what happened or how you feel about it
- Being easily startled or fearful
- Struggling with irritability or angry outbursts
- Having trouble concentrating
- Having difficulty falling or staying asleep
- Behaving recklessly or self-destructively
- Being overly aware of your surroundings and potential threats to safety
- Struggling to remember important parts of the traumatic event
- Ongoing, distorted beliefs about yourself or others (such as “I’m a bad person” or “No one can be trusted”)
- Recurrent feelings of fear, horror, anger, guilt, shame, or hopelessness
- Loss of interest in once enjoyable activities
- Feeling detached from others or struggling to maintain close relationships
- Having difficulty experiencing positive feelings like joy or satisfaction
Causes Of PTSD
People may develop PTSD after experiencing or being exposed to an exceptionally stressful event that involves someone’s death or the threat of it, serious injury, or sexual violation.
It’s unclear exactly why some people develop PTSD and others don’t. As is true for many mental health conditions, it’s likely that there is a slew of potential causes at the root of this condition including:
- Stressful life experiences, including how much trauma you’ve experienced and how severe it was
- A family history of mental health conditions such as anxiety or depression
- Your temperament or inherited personality traits
- The way your brain regulates chemicals and hormones when you experience stress
Certain risk factors could also increase your chances of developing PTSD, such as:
- Having experienced intense or prolonged trauma
- Previous experiences of trauma such as childhood abuse
- Having a job that increases your risk of exposure to trauma (such as military personnel or first responders)
- Having other mental health conditions such as anxiety or depression
- Having problems with substance abuse
- Not having a solid support system
When these symptoms last over a month and cause significant distress or impairment, you may be diagnosed with PTSD.
Keep in mind that there’s no need to check off every box for a diagnosis of PTSD. You only need to experience a certain amount of symptoms from each category for an official diagnosis from a qualified mental health professional.
They’ll go over your symptoms and history with you in order to determine your diagnosis and what you need in order to cope and recover.
Fortunately, there are many research-backed treatments for PTSD that can help people living with this cope with symptoms and begin to recover. Effective treatments include:
1. Cognitive Behavioral Therapy
Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) helps you learn how to recognize thought patterns that fuel negative beliefs about yourself, deal with reminders and emotions associated with the trauma and help reduce maladaptive behaviors associated with PTSD.
Exposure therapy repeatedly exposes you to memories and reminders of trauma in order to learn how to effectively cope with distressing symptoms of PTSD like anxiety and avoidance.
3. Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing
Eye movement desensitization and reprocessing (EMDR) allows you to process traumatic memories in a new and more positive way with the help of guided eye movements.
Medication can help ease symptoms of PTSD and may improve your ability to participate in psychotherapy.
You may be prescribed antidepressants such as selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRI) like Zoloft (sertraline) or Paxil (paroxetine), anti-anxiety medications (though generally only for a short period of time due to the potential for dependence or abuse), or other medications to help reduce sleep disturbances like nightmares.
5. Complementary Therapies
Additionally, there are a number of promising alternative therapies to consider adding to your treatment regimen such as animal-assisted therapy and trauma-sensitive yoga.
Coping with PTSD:
Learning to cope with symptoms of PTSD can be challenging, which is why it’s important to seek treatment and develop healthy ways of managing your symptoms along the way.
Here are a few coping strategies for PTSD to add to your skillset:
- Learn how to deal with distressing thoughts and memories of trauma.
- Find ways to cope with reminders of trauma and flashbacks.
- Address sleep problems related tothis disorder.
- Learn how to cope with related mental health conditions such as anxiety, depression, and substance abuse.
- For more help and community, consider joining a support group.
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