Post-traumatic Stress Disorder (or PTSD) is an anxiety disorder that develops after one experiences or witnesses a traumatic event. Examples of such traumatic events include natural disasters, (such as a flood, fire, earthquake), rape, war, terrorist attacks, physical, emotional or sexual abuse, assault, torture, an automobile accident, frightening airplane flight, or getting a diagnosis of a life-threatening illness.
Symptoms of PTSD
People can experience symptoms from a recent trauma or one that happened decades ago. There are three categories of symptoms; Reliving symptoms, Avoidance and Arousal response.
- Reliving symptoms includes flashbacks of the event, nightmares, intrusive recollections of the trauma, and emotional distress whenever exposed to anything having to do with the trauma.
- Avoidance includes, avoiding places, things or people that remind one of the trauma, avoiding talking about the trauma, feeling numb, detached, and a lack of interest in doing one’s normal activities. A person may also experience depersonalization or derealization. Depersonalization is a feeling of watching oneself, like having an out of body experience and derealization is the perception that one’s world seems unreal.
- Arousal symptoms include hyper vigilance (which is an excessive awareness of one’s surroundings), irritability or sudden anger, difficulty sleeping, being easily startled, extreme guilt, lack of concentration, self-destructive behavior. It is normal to experience many different emotions after a traumatic event.
PTSD is a normal reaction to an abnormal event. If these disturbing symptoms persist for more than a month and if they are negatively impacting your life, talk to a health care professional. It is better to start treatment for PTSD as soon as possible.
Treatment for PTSD
PTSD is usually treated with psychotherapy and/or medication. Therapies most commonly used to treat PTSD are Cognitive therapy, Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR), Cognitive Processing Therapy, and hypnosis; all of which help to reduce the intensity of the emotions connected to the traumatic memory.
Risk Factors for PTSD
Some people are at higher risk for developing PTSD than others. Issues that put a person at higher risk include experiencing a previous trauma, long duration of the traumatic event, the severity of the traumatic experience, having an existing mental health problem, lack of a support system, and excessive stress.
Combat veterans and rape victims tend to suffer from PTSD more than other groups of people. Also, women are twice as likely as men to develop PTSD most likely because they tend more to be the victims of violence. It is estimated that about 5 million people at one time in the United States suffer from this disorder.
Excerpts from The Anxiety Solution Series before and after treatment:
As a child I was physically abused by a family member. The memories kept me frozen. It’s all I could think about was what happened and what I did. I could have drown; they would have let me drowned. The memories that just kept coming into my head that pop in and pop in, I can’t figure it out why? A lot of this happened a long time ago. Why does it keep coming into my head? I don’t understand. Massage Therapist
I would use all the tools that I needed to use. Now, two years later, there’s barely a thought in my head. It’s like there for a minute and I flick it away and say nope, I’m not going to think about you. Massage Therapist