PTSD: Post Traumatic Stress Disorder Symptoms, Treatment & More
What is Post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)?
Post-traumatic stress disorder – PTSD – is a serious mental health condition that occurs after a traumatic event. PTSD is a lasting consequence of traumatic ordeals that cause intense fear, helplessness, or horror. It could remain for month or even years. It could start directly after the event or delayed by months. After experiencing or witnessing a terrifying event a person may have difficulties coping and adjusting it. The person may feel stressed or frightened even when he is no longer in danger. These feelings continue and even increase, becoming so strong that they keep the person from living a normal life.
Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) could include many symptoms. Most often they begin within three month of the traumatic event. There are three main categories of PTSD Symptoms:
- Reliving: The person with post-traumatic stress disorder repeatedly relives the traumatic event as if it were happening again. This may include flashbacks, nightmares and hallucinations. He or she also may feel severe emotional distress or physical reactions to something that reminds him of the event.
- Avoiding: The person avoids thinking or talking about the traumatic event. He or she may also avoid places, events or objects that reminds him or her of the trauma which can lead to feelings of detachment and isolation. A strong guilty feeling and depression may occur.
- Increased arousal: The person may feel tense, frightened and easily startled. He or she may experience troubles of sleeping and concentrating as well as irritability or outbursts of anger. Physical symptoms, such as increased blood pressure and heart rate, rapid breathing, muscle tension, nausea, and diarrhea also may occur.
Moreover the person could feel depressed or emotional numb. Sometimes the patients block the event completely from their memory.
A person suffering from PTSD can develop a post-traumatic stress disorder when he or she goes through or witnesses a traumatic event, such as sexual violation, torture, child abuse, car accidents, sudden death of a loved one or a natural disaster. PTSD can occur in anyone who has experienced a traumatic event but it is assumed that it is caused by a mix of the brain regulation of stress chemicals and hormones and inherited mental health risks, such as an increased risk of anxiety and depression. Moreover, life experiences and inherited aspects of the personality do play a big role.
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The treatment of PTSD is very effective. The goal is to support the coping skills of the patient to be able to deal with the traumatic event. The main treatments for people with post-traumatic stress disorder are psychotherapy or medications, sometimes both. The patient will learn certain skills to address the symptoms and thus improve the symptoms. The Psychologist helps in coping if any symptoms arise again.
Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) is a very helpful therapy when suffering from PTSD. There are several parts to CBT, including:
- Exposure therapy: It helps facing and controlling the fear by mental imagery, writing, or visiting the place where the event happened.
- Cognitive restructuring: It helps recognizing the way of thinking such as negative or inaccurate ways of perceiving normal situations. Sometimes people remember the event differently than how it happened. The Psychologist helps looking at things in a realistic way.
- Stress inoculation training: It helps reducing the symptoms by reducing anxiety. It helps looking at the memories in a healthy and realistic way.
All these approaches can help reducing fear after a traumatic event. The best type of treatment should be discussed individually with the Psychologist. Moreover, certain medications, such as Antidepressants and Anti-anxiety medications, can improve the feelings of anxiety and stress. Sometimes a combination of psychotherapy and medications is recommended by the Specialist.
Furthermore the PTSD patient will learn relaxation techniques such as PMR or autogenic training. It is recommended that the patient visits a support group as well to learn from other sufferers how they managed the situation.