What Is Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)
Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is impairment in functioning resulting from exposure to an extremely distressing event.
It is normal to experience fear and anxiety in response to traumatic situations. However, if they continue to persist long after the events occurred and they interfere with daily activities, the person may be suffering from PTSD.
Typically known during the war periods as "shell shock" or "combat fatigue," PTSD affects not only combat veterans, but it can happen to all people, regardless of age, gender, or race.
Causes of PTSD
Statistics show that there is an increased prevalence of PTSD among women than men. In America, ten out of every 100 women suffer from PTSD when compared to four out of every 100 men.
PTSD can occur after very frightening experiences or after prolonged or repeated exposure to terrifying events such as:
- Vehicular accidents
- Physical or sexual assault
- Natural calamity
- Child neglect or mistreatment
- Mass violence or a terrorist attack
- Sexual abuse
In order to diagnose PTSD, the severity and duration of the trauma need to be established. Both indirect and repeated exposures to traumatic events may lead to the development of PTSD.
Signs and Symptoms of PTSD
To classify as PTSD, symptoms must occur three months or more after the event. PTSD signs and symptoms are clustered into four categories:
- Intrusion - intrusive thoughts like flashbacks or distressing dreams are the hallmarks of PTSD
- Avoidance - refrains from remembering or talking about the traumatic event. Avoiding people, places, or activities which reminds you of the traumatic event
- Alterations in arousal and reactivity - insomnia, hypervigilance, extreme reaction to normal stimuli, self- destructive behavior, irritability, angry outbursts
- Alterations in cognition and mood - it involves the following:
- memory gaps
- negative thoughts about oneself or others
- a general feeling of hopelessness
- feeling emotionally numb
- unable to experience positive emotions
- detachment from family and friends
- distorted thoughts about the event’s causes
- consequences leading to overwhelming guilt and shame
PTSD manifests differently in children. They may not usually show the signs and symptoms commonly found in adults. Rather, it may be as follows:
- display unusually strong attachment to their primary caregiver for fear of separation
- losing previously acquired skills or regressive behavior
- re-enacting the trauma through play or drawings
- the emergence of new fears or anxieties unrelated to the actual event.
Treatment Modalities of PTSD
If you are struggling with PTSD, it is best to contact specialists to have access to proper evaluation and management. The main goals for PTSD therapy are to improve your symptoms or eradicate them, teach coping skills, and integrate back into society. The following are effective treatment modalities used for individuals with PTSD:
Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT)
CBT helps to change negative thoughts and emotions and thus, behaviors. In the U.S, it is considered as the gold standard of treatment for victims of PTSD.
Related: What is CBT and Does it Work?
It involves therapeutic confrontation of the trauma in order to regain control over fear and anxiety. This is done in a safe and controlled way, allowing the person to face the troubling memories instead of avoiding them.
Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing
It is a psychotherapy using guided eye movements together with CBT to reframe and reprocess traumatic memories into more adaptive ones.
Complementary treatment modalities
This includes PTSD Service Dogs. Assistance canines are taught behaviors to help people with PTSD cope with their anxiety, promote positive emotions, and act as a social bridge.
Medication may be required to treat underlying problems. It may also be necessary to alleviate the symptoms, allowing the person to participate more effectively during psychotherapy.
Play therapy is useful for young children who cannot directly process the trauma. Through play, the therapist gains insight into the child’s unexplored emotions and unresolved conflict. This may help the child learn new coping mechanisms and redirect inappropriate behavior.
Trauma may scar you for life, and the struggles associated with it can be crippling. Nevertheless, there is hope for healing. For victims of PTSD, the first step is to acknowledge the problem. Professional help is available to help you regain your life. There is light at the end of the tunnel.