Have you ever experienced living in a constant state of fear? Reliving past traumatic memories? To be greatly astounded by a gentle knock on your neighbor's door or a dog’s bark? To think about what is going to happen to you if you leave the house? To foresee injuries or traumatic incidents every single day of your life? This is just a snapshot of what it's like to deal with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).
Simply put, PTSD is a mental health disorder that may arise after a traumatic incident. Usually, when we think of "PTSD," our thoughts turn to those who have been in war. While this is certainly a matter for those who have been in real-life war zones, PTSD is not just exclusive to war veterans. In fact, many survivors of emotional deprivation, physical or emotional abuse, domestic violence, sexual assault, and life-threatening illness may have symptoms of PTSD on the off chance that they have persevered through a long-standing, chronic, and inescapable trauma.
Such individuals face combat and battle in invisible war zones that are nonetheless traumatic and potentially harmful for it can cause issues to arise in your daily life, such as in relationships and at work. It can likewise negatively affect your physical and mental wellbeing. But with proper treatment, you can still carry on with a fulfilling life.
The causes of PTSD can involve psychological, physiological, social, and environmental factors. Individuals who have experienced childhood violence or other past traumatic experiences, often months or years after the incident, are likely to develop the condition. Temperamental variables like outsourcing habits or other anxiety disorders can also increase risk. Moreover, environmental risk factors can contribute as well such as family conflicts, childhood disability, cultural variables and family history of psychiatric illness. It is important to note that the greater the severity of the trauma which can include witnessing atrocities, severe personal injury, and committing crimes, the greater is the risk for PTSD. Unsuitable coping strategies, lack of social support, family instability, or financial stress can further exacerbate the outcome.
PTSD can influence an individual's capacity to work, perform everyday activities or relate to family and friends. They may incorporate intrusive memories such as recurrent, unwanted distressing memories of the traumatic event, reliving a traumatic event as if it had occurred again (called flashbacks), disturbing thoughts or hallucinations about a traumatic event, and extreme emotional distress or physical responses to something that reminds you of a traumatic event. These may lead to negative shifts in perception and mood, including negative feelings about yourself, others or the environment, hopelessness about the future, memory issues, including not recalling important details of a traumatic incident, difficulty in experiencing positive emotions, emotional numbness, and difficulty maintaining close relationships. You may also avoid objects, places or people that may remind you of the trauma, and lose interest in things you enjoy. In reality, a person with PTSD may sometimes appear disinterested or withdrawn as they try not to think or feel in order to avoid painful memories. It may stop them from participating in family events or ignore offers of assistance.
Your physical and emotional wellbeing can be affected as well and can leave you in a state of being easily startled or frightened, constantly on guard against danger, self-destructive behavior, such as drinking too much or driving too fast, sleeping problems, violent outbursts, and sentiments of guilt which in turn can develop into secondary mental health disorders. That is why it is common for people with PTSD to have certain issues with mental health simultaneously. In general, up to 80 % of people with PTSD for several years are facing other issues such as depression, anxiety, and alcohol or drug abuse. These may have developed directly following the traumatic event or have grown at some point after the beginning of PTSD.
In the first two weeks of a traumatic incident, many individual experience some of the PTSD symptoms, but most heal on their own or with the aid of family and friends. For this cause, comprehensive PTSD therapy typically will not begin until at least two or three weeks following a traumatic encounter.
It is crucial to get whatever support is needed in the first few days and weeks of a traumatic incident. This can include obtaining information, people and resources that can assist you with recovering. Support from family and friends may be all that is required. Otherwise, the best way is to start seeking help from a professional.
On the off chance that you are still encountering issues after two weeks, your doctor or mental health provider can consider beginning therapy. Effective treatments are available. Most of them require psychiatric therapy, such as counselling, but medications can likewise be useful.
PTSD treatment can include therapies with a trauma-informed and validating Clinical Psychologist who can help direct you through triggers in a healthy manner. Based on studies, successful therapies may involve a type of trauma-focused therapy, such as Cognitive Behavioral Therapies such as prolonged exposure therapy (PE) involving confronting the unpleasant emotions that you have been constantly ignoring, cognitive processing therapy (CPT) that helps the person to reframe their trauma-related thoughts, or Eye-Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR) therapy involving treatment of the trauma by tracking light or sound movement back and forth.
There are also other methods that can help to reduce the risks of the disorder. Some of these occur before the trauma and others become significant during and after a traumatic event. Methods that can minimize the risk of PTSD include seeking a support group after a traumatic incident, feeling confident about one's own actions in the face of threat, developing a coping mechanism, and being able to act appropriately in spite of fear.
Bear in mind that not all treatments fit every patient and should be discussed with a trauma-trained professional at all times. Furthermore, it is important to note that healing has no time limit and that recovery is a cyclical process rather than a linear one. Each patient recovers in his own way and is deserving of the help he needs to get to the other side of recovery.
Stay happy, healthy and well!