Post-traumatic Stress Disorder aka PTSD is a mental health condition that is triggered by either experiencing a traumatic event or witnessing it. The intensity of PTSD symptoms is directly related to the severity of the underlying traumatic event.
PTSD is diagnosed when a person experiences symptoms for at least a month following a traumatic experience.
These symptoms are known to cause significant problems in social life, work environment, and personal relationships. In severe cases, they can also interfere with regular daily tasks. However, it is also common that PTSD symptoms do not appear until several months or even years later.
Categorization of PTSD Symptoms
PTSD symptoms are generally grouped into four main categories, and these symptoms may vary from time to time or person to person
Intrusive Memory symptoms include
- Reliving the traumatic event as if it was happening again (flashbacks, and nightmares).
- Recurring of unwanted distressing memories of the traumatic event.
- Emotional distress and extreme physical reaction to places, people, and activities that remind of the trauma or are related to the traumatic event.
2. Avoidance Symptoms
Avoidance is a type of PTSD symptoms which include behavior like
- Trying to avoid talking, thinking or discussing the traumatic event.
- Avoiding people, places, events, groups or activities that remind of the trauma
3. Arousal Symptoms
Change in emotional and physical reactions also known as Arousal Symptoms include
- Increased difficulty in sleeping
- Have a hard time concentrating
- Feeling jumpy or severe mood swings
- Becoming easily irritated and angered.
- Feeling extremely guilty or shameful
- Overly paranoid
- Self-harming behavior like alcohol abuse, substance abuse
4. Negativity in thinking and negative mood
In this type of PTSD symptoms a person can have a similar line of thoughts following
- Negative thoughts about oneself and the rest of the world
- Feeling hopeless about the future
- Difficulty in making and maintaining close relationships
- Lack of interest in friends, family and socializing
- Emotional numbness
- Lose interest in activities which you enjoyed before the traumatic experience
- Very hard to experience positive emotions
The intensity of PTSD Symptoms
As with any other ailment, the intensity of PTSD varies from time to time. Your symptoms may be fewer when you are relaxed or trying to overcome the problem. Similarly, you may exhibit more PTSD symptoms when you are stressed or reminded of the traumatic event. For example, you may be reminded of your trauma when you find a similar incident being reported in the news on TV.
It is advised to visit and consult a doctor when you have disturbing thoughts, feelings, nightmares about a traumatic experienced for over a month, as mentioned earlier this is usually the period when PTSD condition is confirmed as positive. It may also be beneficial to consult a mental health professional when you feel you are having a hard time controlling your thoughts, action and want to get your life back under control.
In extreme conditions when you start getting suicidal thoughts, its strongly advised to immediately get help right away from either your close friend or family, spiritual leaders, religious leaders in whom you have your faith, reach out to a trained counselor or mental health professional.
PTSD is diagnosed by following methods
- Perform a physical exam to identify any medical problems that may be a cause of your PTSD symptoms
- A psychological evaluation which includes discussion of your symptoms and events related to the traumatic event
PTSD diagnosis usually requires an exposure to the event which led to your trauma, you may have been related to trauma in one or more of the following ways
- Directly experience the trauma
- Witnessing the traumatic event happen to others in-person
- You got to knew of someone close to you experienced the trauma
- Repeated exposure to graphical details of a traumatic event
PTSD treatment aims to help you regain control of your life. The primary form of treatment is psychotherapy, but in some cases, it can include medication. Usually, it is observed that a combination of the following methods leads to better results:
- Coaching you in skills that help you resolve your symptoms
- Guiding and aiding you to think better and positive about yourself and other aspects of the world
- Teach you ways to cope in case symptoms should reappear
- Treatment of other issues that are often noted to be related to traumas such as alcohol abuse, substance abuse, depression & anxiety, etc.
The key thing to always remember is, you don’t have to handle the burden of PTSD alone. You have to realize that you have people who care about your well-being and can be counted on to support you during hard times.
Usually professional resort to using the following three types of psychotherapy aka talk therapy to treat PTSD:
Cognitive therapy helps you identify cognitive patterns (your ways of thinking) which keeps your mind stuck in a particular situation over and over. For example, observations point out that PTSD patients have negative thoughts about themselves and the risk of the trauma repeating to them.
Exposure therapy is a type of behavioral therapy that helps you safely face memories, situations that you are frightened of and train you to effectively cope with them. This kind of therapy is extremely helpful in dealing with flashbacks and nightmares. There is also an advanced form of this therapy which involves a virtual reality program that enables you to re-enter the environment of the traumatic event and try to cope with it in a better way.
Eye movement desensitization and reprocessing (EMDR). EMDR is a combination of exposure therapy and guided eye moments. In EMDR a person who has experienced trauma is asked to recall the distressing images, memory and then is directed by the therapist to perform a set of guided eye movements that helps the patient process traumatic memories and the way the person reacts to them.
Your therapist can help you develop stress management skills. These skills prove useful in dealing with stress in your life.
All the above-mentioned therapies can help you manage fear after a traumatic experience. However, it is up to you and your mental health professional to decide what type of therapy or what combination of therapy is most effective on you.
Another recommendation on dealing with PTSD is to participate in group therapy and connect with others undergoing similar experiences.
Several types of medications help improve PTSD symptoms
- Antidepressants: As the name suggests, antidepressants can treat depression and anxiety. Antidepressants help in concentration and insomnia.
- Anti-anxiety medications: As the name suggests, this type of drug can relieve severe anxiety. Usually, aam drugs are used for the short term as it exposes the user to potential drug abuse.
- Prazosin: Prazosin is argued to help in suppressing the nightmares for some people with PTSD symptoms. There is another recent study that argues otherwise, so it is advised to consult a doctor before taking prazosin.
Please inform your doctor about any problems or side effects related to the medications. You can try one or more medications in combination and find the right fit of combination that helps you with your condition. Your doctor will adjust and guide you in the right amount of dosage and schedule based on the combination.