PTSD

1 What is Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)?

A mental health condition that arise when a terrifying event has been experienced or witnessed is called post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

Although a lot of individuals suffer from different traumatic experiences which they may find difficult to forget and deal with, but not all people develop PTSD some are able to cope and get better with ample time and good self-care. A person suffering from PTSD may develop symptoms such as nightmares, severe anxiety, and frequent flashback of the traumatic event, including uncontrollable thoughts about the experience.

Once these symptoms get worse or start interfering with daily functions which can last for months to years then it is best to seek medical help to be properly diagnosed if you have PTSD and immediately be treated as it is crucial in restoring normalcy.

2 Symptoms

Post-traumatic stress disorder symptoms may lead to a serious condition. Hence it is important to know what to watch out for as well keep in mind to how to get emergency help if things get worse such as when you think you may have hurt yourself or attempt suicide or have hurt others.

If you know someone is suffering from PTSD and have observed to have suicidal ideation or thoughts of endangering self, make sure that the person is not left alone and that someone capable of dealing with the person is able to stay with him or her all the time.

If you feel that you or the person suffering from PTSD is in danger then immediately call 911 or your local emergency number or bring the person to the nearest emergency room. Also, be aware of the suicide hotline number in the United States, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 800-273-TALK (800-273-8255) to reach a trained counselor.

Use that same number and press 1 to reach the Veterans Crisis Line. Make an appointment with your doctor, mental health provider or other health care professional.

Symptoms of Post-traumatic stress disorder may not arise soon after the traumatic event as it may start within three months from the occurrence of the event, but some symptoms may not appear until years after the event.

Symptoms of PTSD are mostly behavioral hence significantly affect social and work situations and relationships.

Symptoms of PTSD are generally grouped into four types:

  • intrusive memories,
  • avoidance,
  • negative changes in thinking and mood,
  • or changes in emotional reactions.

Symptoms of intrusive memories may include

  • Recurrent,
  • unwanted distressing memories of the traumatic event,
  • upsetting dreams about the traumatic event,
  • upsetting dreams about the traumatic event and reliving the traumatic event as if it were happening again (flashbacks).

Symptoms of Avoidance include

  • Activities or people that remind you of the traumatic event,
  • trying to avoid thinking or talking about the traumatic event and avoiding places.

Symptoms of negative changes in mood and thinking may include

  • Inability to experience positive emotions,
  • hopelessness about the future memory problems,
  • not remembering important aspects of the traumatic event,
  • lack of interest in activities you once enjoyed,
  • feeling emotionally numb and difficulty maintaining close relationships.

Symptoms related to emotional reactions include

Also called arousal symptoms:

  • Irritability,
  • angry outbursts or aggressive behavior,
  • always being on guard for danger,
  • overwhelming guilt or shame,
  • self-destructive behavior, such as drinking too much or driving too fast,
  • trouble concentrating,
  • trouble sleeping,
  • being easily startled or frightened Intensity of symptoms.

PTSD symptoms may experience increasing variety over time. When you go through an event that might remind you of the traumatic experience and might aggravate more PTSD symptoms when stressed.

Some everyday event may trigger remembering the traumatic experience such as when you hear a car backfire and relive your combat experiences in a battle war.

You may also see a report on the news about sexual assault and may relive memories of your own assault.

It is critical to have continuous medical attention especially if you are having disturbing thoughts and feelings about a traumatic event for an extended period of time, mostly about a month.

Also, if you feel that you are having trouble getting control of your life and daily activities, you need to talk to your health care provider and get the right treatment as soon as possible to prevent further aggravation of PTSD symptoms.

3 Causes

Same with most mental health conditions, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is probably caused by a complex variety of contributing factors such as:

  • Inherited health risks which increases risk of anxiety and depression.
  • Life experiences, including the amount and severity of trauma you have gone through since early childhood.  
  • Inherited aspects of your personality which is also often called your temperament.
  • The way your brain regulates the hormones and chemicals as released by the body in response to different stresses.

Post-traumatic stress disorder may develop when a person experience, witness or learn about an event involving actual or threatened death, sexual violation or serious injury.

4 Making a Diagnosis

Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is diagnosed based on signs and symptoms and a thorough psychological evaluation.

If you observed changes in your behavior a few months following a traumatic event or have observed signs and symptoms of Post-traumatic stress disorder, it is advisable to right away seek medical appointment to be properly diagnosed and start the necessary treatment before things get worse.

To maximize the time spent with your health care provider, you must come prepared prior to your scheduled appointment, here are some important things to take note of. First, make a list of all the signs and symptoms you have been experiencing or changes in your mood and behavior that you have been observing and also include its duration. It would also help to have information on events and experiences, recent and even distant past that have generated intense emotions in you such as fear, helplessness, horror and despair.

It would also be of great help for your doctor to know if you have memories that can’t seem to fully remember or would need to make an effort to understand without causing aggravated negative feelings.

Past medical history that includes physical and mental conditions that you have experienced and had been diagnosed before should be disclosed to your physician, as well any and all medications that you have taken and is still taking including the dosage and frequency. Having a close and trusted friend or loved one accompany you during the appointment would also be beneficial for you and the complete assessment of the doctor.

A constant company present will be helpful since sometimes it can be difficult to remember information provided to you especially when you are feeling emotion as well as provide their own observations based on the different interactions with you prior to the appointment. To ensure complete understanding of this disorder, having a list of questions to ask the physician can prove handy.

Here are the suggested questions about PTSD:

  • What do you believe is causing my symptoms?
  • Are there any other possible causes?
  • How will you determine my diagnosis?
  • Is my condition likely temporary or long term?
  • What treatments do you recommend for this disorder?
  • I have other health problems. How best can I manage these together with PTSD?
  • How soon do you expect my symptoms to improve?
  • Does PTSD increase my risk of other mental health problems?
  • Do you recommend any changes at home, work or school to encourage recovery?
  • Would it help my recovery to tell my teachers or work colleagues about my diagnosis?
  • Are there any printed materials on PTSD that I can have?
  • What websites do you recommend?

Making a list prior to your appointment can also help you prepare to face the physician so that you will not feel uncomfortable asking more clarifying questions whenever deemed necessary. Likewise, part of the doctor’s assessment to come up with the correct diagnosis is to probe for what you have been experiencing.

Here are some of the questions your doctor might ask:

  • What are your symptoms?
  • When did you or your loved ones first notice your symptoms?
  • Have you ever experienced or witnessed an event that was life-threatening to you or someone else?
  • Have you ever been physically, sexually or emotionally harmed?
  • Do you have disturbing thoughts, memories or nightmares of the trauma you experienced?
  • Do you ever feel as if you're reliving the traumatic event, through flashbacks or hallucinations?
  • Do you avoid certain people, places or situations that remind you of the traumatic experience?
  • Have you lost interest in things or felt numb?
  • Do you feel jumpy, on guard or easily startled?
  • Do you frequently feel irritable or angry?
  • Are you having trouble sleeping?
  • Is anything happening in your life right now that's making you feel unsafe?
  • Have you been having any problems at school, work or in your personal relationships?
  • Have you ever thought about harming yourself or others?
  • Do you drink alcohol or use illegal drugs? How often?
  • Have you been treated for other psychiatric symptoms or mental illness in the past? If yes, what type of therapy was most helpful?

Post-traumatic stress disorder is diagnosed based on the signs and symptoms present as well as the result of the psychological evaluation hence keep in mind to be accurate with your answers and do not hesitate to provide pertinent information related to what you have been feeling and the possible events that triggered it.

Physical exams and other diagnostic tests may also be performed to determine presence of underlying medical conditions. To be diagnosed with PTSD, you must meet criteria in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5), published by the American Psychiatric Association. This manual is used by mental health providers to diagnose mental conditions and by insurance companies to reimburse for treatment.

DSM criteria for PTSD Diagnosis of PTSD requires exposure to an event that involved or held the threat of death, violence or serious injury. Developing PTSD may not only arise from directly experiencing the traumatic event instead PTSD can also happen if you have witnessed, in person, the traumatic event or you learned someone close to you experienced or was threatened by the traumatic event. Repeated exposure to graphic details of traumatic events (for example, if you are a first responder to the scene of traumatic events) can also trigger PTSD.

One or more of the following signs or symptoms after the traumatic event can be experienced: You relive experiences of the traumatic event, such as having distressing images and memories.

You have frequent nightmares or upsetting dreams about the traumatic event. You experience flashbacks as if you were reliving the traumatic event again. You experience ongoing or severe emotional distress or physical symptoms if something reminds you of the traumatic event. In addition, for more than one month after the traumatic event as you try to forget about the negative experience you try to avoid situations or things that remind you of it that may even lead to not remembering important parts of the traumatic event or blocking some bad memories.

Other changes you may observe are as follows:

  • your view of yourself,
  • others and the world has now become negative,
  • you lose interest in activities you used to enjoy and feel detached from family and friends,
  • feel a sense of emotional numbness,
  • feel irritable or have angry or violent outbursts,
  • engage in dangerous or self-destructive behavior,
  • feel as if you're constantly on guard or alert for signs of danger and startle easily,
  • and have trouble sleeping or concentrating.

Your symptoms cause significant distress in your life or interfere with your ability to go about your normal daily tasks hence relationships that you have in the past are also affected as well as how much you get to take care of yourself.

Signs and symptoms for children younger than 6 years old may differ as experiencing negative emotions may prove extremely difficult for them as they go through new and foreign emotions. Reenacting the traumatic event or aspects of the traumatic event through play, frightening dreams that may or may not include aspects of the traumatic event may manifest and help with the diagnosis of PTSD for young children.

5 Treatment

Treatment options for Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) can help you regain a sense of control of your emotions, things that are happening and overall your life.

The treatment for PSTD is a combination of psychotherapy and medications.

Having the right treatment option and correct combination based on your signs and symptoms and what you would be more comfortable in would help you feel more in control of your condition which will help regain your self-confidence and manage treatment based on the symptom you are currently experiencing.

Psychotherapy and medications have also proven helpful in managing symptoms related to your traumatic experience such as

  • depression,
  • anxiety,
  • or misuse of alcohol and drugs.

Keep in mind that you are not alone in dealing with the symptoms of PTSD and that you have someone to share with the burden it brings.

There are different types of psychotherapy that can be used based on how the patient reacts and presents the PTSD symptoms.

First is the Cognitive Therapy

This type of talk therapy helps you recognize the ways of thinking (cognitive patterns) that are keeping you stuck , for example negative or inaccurate ways of perceiving normal situations. For PTSD, cognitive therapy often is used along with exposure therapy.

Second is Exposure Therapy

This is behavioral therapy that helps you safely face what you find frightening so that you can learn to cope with it effectively. One approach to exposure therapy uses "virtual reality" programs that allow you to re-enter the setting in which you experienced trauma.

Eye movement desensitization and reprocessing (EMDR) combines exposure therapy with a series of guided eye movements that help you process traumatic memories and change how you react to traumatic memories.

There are also individual or group therapies that are available which you could try to see which therapy you would feel more comfortable with and would generate better results.

Group therapy

Can offer a way to connect with others going through similar experiences while Individual therapy may provide you with the needed privacy or level of confidentiality that you are more comfortable with.

There are also several medications that can help alleviate or improve the symptoms of PTSD: such as

Antidepressants

These medications can help symptoms of depression and anxiety. They can also help improve sleep problems and concentration. The selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor (SSRI) medications sertraline (Zoloft) and paroxetine (Paxil) are approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for PTSD treatment.

Anti-anxiety medications

These drugs also can improve feelings of anxiety and stress for a short time to relieve severe anxiety and related problems. Because these medications have the potential for abuse, they are not usually taken long term. Prazosin. If symptoms include insomnia or recurrent nightmares, a drug called prazosin (Minipress) may help. Although not specifically FDA-approved for PTSD treatment, prazosin may reduce or suppress nightmares in many people with PTSD.

You must work with your health care provider in discussing and coming up with the best type of therapy or combination of therapies that would best suit your needs which will help you gain control of lasting fear after the traumatic event.

As well as the proper medication that offers best result with the fewest side effects based on your presented symptoms and underlying situation. Improvement with the mood and outlook may start manifesting within a few weeks from the time you have taken your treatment regime.

You must also be aware of the side effects of the medications that you are taken and immediately notify your doctor should you observe the side effects arising as adjustment in the dosage and or type of medication may need to be made based on your reaction.

6 Prevention

Getting timely help and support may prevent normal stress reactions from getting worse and developing into post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

A lot of people may experience a traumatic event in one point in their life but not everyone who has been exposed, witnessed or learned about a traumatic event will develop post-traumatic stress disorder.

As it arises when a person is no longer able to double and move on from the traumatic event which would lead to negative changes in mood and behavior and uncontrolled re-occurring thoughts of the trauma as if repeatedly reliving the experience.

Having a strong emotional and mental support can help you recover from a traumatic experience and prevent prolonged feelings of

  • fear,
  • anxiety,
  • depression
  • and guilt.

It is also best to seek medical help to regain your mental health which can be for a short period of time.

Also, not resulting to unhealthy coping methods such as misuse of alcohol and drugs can help prevent long-term symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder.

7 Alternative and Homeopathic Remedies

Homeopathic remedies have been shown to have a profound effect on children and adults suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

There are several natural and herbal remedies that studies show to have a positive effect on treating symptoms of PTSD, such as:

Stramonium

Is effective for nightmares and night terrors, especially when the child is afraid to be left alone in the dark. Helpful for anxiety disorders after experiencing

  • violence;
  • experiences anguish,
  • fear,
  • sleeplessness
  • and imagines they are surrounded by danger.

Chamomilla

Brings a sense of calmness to children who have experienced severe trauma and then become hyper-vigilant and hypersensitive. They may complain of stomach aches and be overly sensitive to noise and music. Being gently rocked often brings relief.

Green tea

Strengthens the immune system helping those suffering from PTSD to resist acute illnesses and long-term disease states.

It is always best to seek your health care provider when taking natural or homeopathic remedies especially together with prescribed medications.

8 Lifestyle and Coping

Lifestyle modifications are necessary in order to cope with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

Fully recovering from post-traumatic stress disorder would not be immediate as it requires patience, time and effort.

Hence, coping with the combined psychotherapy and medications would also mean adjustments in your normal routines and daily life including your social and personal relationships.

You must be committed to follow your treatment and continuously work with your health care provider as treatment will not generate immediate results but if followed is proven effective in treating PTSD.

The best way in dealing with PTSD is understanding what it is, what you are feeling and the things that you might experience in your road to recovery.

Empowering yourself with the necessary knowledge about PTSD will allow you to accept what it is that you are going through and move forward which can help you keep up with the time necessary to get yourself treated.

Take care of yourself. Get enough rest, eat a healthy diet, exercise and take time to relax. Take care of yourself by eating healthy, being physically active and getting enough rest. Avoid caffeine and nicotine, which can worsen anxiety.

Don't self-medicate. Turning to alcohol or drugs to numb your feelings isn't healthy, even though it may be a tempting way to cope. It can lead to more problems down the road and prevent real healing.

Stay connected with supportive and caring people — family, friends, faith leaders or others. You don't have to talk about what happened if you don't want to. Just sharing time with loved ones can offer healing and comfort. Consider a support group.

Look for local support groups in an online directory or in your phone book. When someone you love has PTSD the person you love may seem like a different person that you knew before the trauma — angry and irritable, for example, or withdrawn and depressed. PTSD can significantly strain the emotional and mental health of loved ones and friends.

Hearing about the trauma that led to your loved one's PTSD may be painful for you and even cause you to relive difficult events. You may find yourself avoiding his or her attempts to talk about the trauma or feeling hopeless that your loved one will get better. At the same time, you may feel guilty that you can't fix your loved one or hurry up the process of healing. Remember that you can't change someone.

Break the cycle

When you feel anxious, take a brisk walk or jump into a hobby to re-focus, engage in healthy activities which can help turn negative thoughts to positive.

Allow space and let your loved one know that you're available when he or she is ready to accept your help. Offer to attend medical appointments. If your loved one is willing, attending appointments can help you understand and assist with treatment. Be willing to listen. Let your loved one know you're willing to listen, but you understand if he or she doesn't want to talk.

Take time alone or with friends, doing activities that help you recharge. Plan opportunities for activities with family and friends. Celebrate good events. Make your own health a priority.

The road to recovery for PTSD may be long and challenging but it will make things better if you are open to accepting and asking for help from people who truly are willing to extend it to you.

9 Risks and Complications

There are several risks and complications associated with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

Anyone regardless of gender, age or ethnicity can develop post-traumatic stress disorder.

Here are some factors that increase the likelihood of having PTSD after a traumatic event;

  • having other mental health problems,
  • such as anxiety or depression,
  • experiencing intense or long-lasting trauma,
  • having experienced other trauma earlier in life, including childhood abuse or neglect,
  • lacking a good support system of family and friends,
  • having biological (blood) relatives with mental health problems, including PTSD or depression,
  • and having a job that increases your risk of being exposed to traumatic events, such as military personnel and first responders.

There are also common events or traumatic experiences that are more detrimental to the development of PTSD this include:

  • Childhood neglect and physical abuse,
  • Physical attack,
  • Sexual assault,
  • Being threatened with a weapon,
  • and Combat exposure.

Other extreme and life-threatening events lead to PTSD such as:

  • fire,
  • natural disaster,
  • mugging,
  • robbery,
  • car accident,
  • plane crash,
  • torture,
  • kidnapping,
  • life-threatening medical diagnosis,
  • and terrorist attack.

Having PTSD also may increase your risk of other mental health problems, such as: 

  • Depression and anxiety,
  • Issues with drugs or alcohol use,
  • Eating disorders,
  • Suicidal thoughts and actions.

Post-traumatic stress disorder can disrupt your whole life:

  • your job,
  • your relationships,
  • your health and your enjoyment of everyday activities

hence it is critical to seek medical attention as soon as possible and stick with your treatment plan to regain control of your emotions and life in general.

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