PTSD has become a common topic of discussion recently. The word trauma is thrown around regularly, often with different definitions being assumed. The following will explore a few fundamental things you should know about PTSD if you or someone you know has experienced a traumatic event or is showing symptoms or has been diagnosed with PTSD.
What Is PTSD?
PTSD stands for post-traumatic stress disorder. It is a condition that tends to be triggered by a terrifying event. Both experiencing an event and witnessing it can produce PTSD. Common symptoms include flashbacks, severe anxiety, nightmares, and repeated, invasive thoughts about the event. It is worth noting that these symptoms are common following traumatic events. Many people feel these things and then fully recover from the traumatic event. PTSD is only discussed or diagnosed if these symptoms are long-lasting.
PTSD has a wide variety of treatment options that have been proven effective. Of course, every person is different and so will respond to treatments differently. Therapy is one of the most common forms of PTSD treatment. There are usually three main goals of PTSD-focused therapy: improving the experience of symptoms, learning to cope or deal with your symptoms, and restoring your sense of capability. Cognitive behavioral therapy is one of the most common forms of PTSD therapy, but there are many other options.
Prolonged exposure therapy is another common option. The treatment will first teach you breathing and anxiety management techniques before supporting you as you approach the things you’ve been avoiding. If, for instance, driving is terrifying after a particular event, you might first try to think about a car. Your next session might involve you looking at a photograph or drawing of a car. Then you might walk into the parking lot. Then you might touch a car. Then you might sit in a still car. Slowly bringing things back into your life in a safe way while employing anxiety-management techniques can help you get back some of the things you’ve given up as a result of your PTSD.
Medication is also an option in some situations; while there is no medication that cures PTSD, there are some that address symptoms. A medical professional coupled with a mental health professional can help you learn about the different pharmaceutical options available and what you can expect from each. Always be sure to ask your doctor about the side effects of any medications and long-term outcomes that can occur.
The Symptoms In Detail
Symptoms of PTSD can develop within the first month that a traumatic event has occurred but can sometimes appear much later on, even years after a particular experience. Typically, PTSD symptoms are divided into four categories, but of course, symptoms vary from person to person.
- Intrusive memories. Intrusive memories can include any of the following: unwanted, recurring, and distressing memories of the event, reliving the traumatic event as if it were happening all over again, having nightmares of upsetting dreams about the event, or experiencing distress or physical reactions when things remind you of the event.
- Avoidance. Avoidance can include avoiding visiting the places, people, or activities that remind you of the event or avoiding thinking or talking about the event.
- Negative alterations in thinking or mood. Examples of this might include having negative thoughts about the world, yourself, or other people, feeling hopeless, struggling with memory (including having difficulty remembering the event), struggling to maintain close relationships, detaching or feeling detached from friends and family, feeling numb, struggling to experience positive emotions or losing interest in things you were once interested in.
- Arousal symptoms. Arousal symptoms involve a series of potential physical and emotional reactions. This might include being easily frightened or startled, having overwhelming guilt or shame, being constantly on guard, irritability, aggressive behavior, angry outbursts, difficulty concentrating, struggles with sleep, and self-destructive behavior like driving too fast with no seat belt on or using harmful substances.
People Of All Ages Can Experience PTSD
There is no age requirement for post-traumatic stress disorder. Traumatic events can happen to anyone at any age, and, therefore, so can PTSD. It is worth noting that children can have additional symptoms of PTSD. They may have nightmares that are not related to the traumatic event (of course, they can also have bad dreams that are related). They may also re-enact the event that traumatized them or elements of the event through play. This could easily be misunderstood by adults in their lives or other children. Some might consider it an indication that the child is fine as they appear to be making light of the event. Others might be horrified or uncomfortable with the idea that a child would play games involving certain concepts.
The above information should have explained some vital information about post-traumatic stress disorder. Of course, every person is different, and this means that no two instances of PTSD are exactly the same.