For someone who has been exposed to traumatic or life-threatening events — like a workplace accident, road accident, physical or sexual assault or mass murder, it is normal to have flashbacks, nightmares, and intrusive memories.

It is important to be tolerant to your brain and its reactions. You have experienced something terrible, and thus you are experiencing such after effects. However, it is important to reach out and seek help as you may be suffering from a serious mental condition called post-traumatic stress disorder, which can keep you anxious and depressed for a long period of time. 

Early intervention can prevent the onset of PTSD and reduce the risk of depression.

Read on more to know further about PTSD.

What exactly is PTSD? 

PTSD is an acronym for the term “post-traumatic stress disorder” which refers to a mental health condition that can occur in people who have experienced a traumatic event such as natural disasters, wars, any kind of extreme violence, rape, being threatened, or even witnessing such an event. The diagnosis of PTSD requires indirect or direct exposure to a traumatic event as a prerequisite. The term is known to be more associated with war veterans as they more than often experience this condition. It has thus been known by many names in the past such as “combat fatigue” after World War II and “shell shock” during the time of World War I. However, the misconception that PTSD only happens with war veterans is far from the truth. Any kind of trauma can result in this condition. 

Such experiences are extremely emotionally scarring, and more than often physically wounding as well for the sufferer. However, there is a difference between normal, expected reaction to trauma and PTSD. 

PTSD vs. Trauma 

The differentiators between PTSD and a normal response to trauma is the length and severity of the signs and symptoms. It is important to understand that not all traumatic experiences result in PTSD. After a life-threatening, shocking event, most people experience many symptoms similar to what is experienced in PTSD. Those who haven’t developed PTSD will continue on to live a normal life with a relatively smaller amount of help than those with PTSD would take to stabilize. People with PTSD require a full-fledged treatment before they can finally live their life peacefully. While those who experience trauma do often require help, of course, but some of us display more resilience and are able to cope much faster. 

Another fact is that not all of those who have PTSD have gone through a serious, major traumatic event that threatens their life and survival. They might have witnessed it, and that would have triggered the onset of PTSD and its symptoms. 

However, one should remember, that all those suffering from PTSD can live a peaceful, fear-free life and go on to be amazing individuals who contribute a lot to society. With the kind of treatment procedures that are available today, recovery is possible. And in most cases, it is guaranteed.  

Signs, Symptoms Or Stages of PTSD

The symptoms, signs and indications of PTSD occur in layers. They have a physical, emotional, cognitive and social dimension. Many of these symptoms overlap with the normal responses to trauma, as well as some other trauma-related disorders. They are as follows: 

Disorientation and Denial: 

Upon the experience of trauma, the first, immediate reaction is that of complete disorientation. It takes time to realize and accept what has happened to the individual. At first, the person may even deny the happening of such a debilitating event. It takes much time and acceptance to fully come to terms with what has happened to them. 

Physical and Bodily Reactions: 

Following the disorientation, denial are the physical and bodily reactions which may comprise of complete exhaustion without performing any physical task, increased levels of heartbeat and blood pressure, feeling jumpy or easily getting startled and insomnia or difficulty in sleeping. These reactions may last till the end of the treatment. 

Emotional Reactions:  

Emotional reactions to a traumatic event felt by someone who’s developed PTSD would be that of grief, shock, helplessness, hopelessness, depression, etc. They might question their situation and its unfairness, and why it happened to them. They might even feel shameful and guilty for something they weren’t even responsible for. Many people report a feeling of numbness, or hollowness and inability to experience emotions for a while. 

Cognitive Problems:

They may find it really tough to do the same tasks that they regularly used to do before with the same level of focus and concentration. Their span of attention reduces, and in many cases there are memory lapses. Nightmares and flashbacks of the traumatic event are very common. Some may develop suicidal ideation. 

Social Reactions: 

The person suffering from PTSD is likely to withdraw socially from their loved ones. They may become argumentative and get into conflicts with them. They might even have difficulties maintaining professional relationships as well. 

Causes of PTSD

PTSD, as stated above in the article, is caused due to the experience of or witnessing a frightening, traumatic, extremely distressing event. One in three people who go through such severe trauma develop PTSD. People who already have depression or anxiety issues are more likely to develop PTSD. Having a parent with a mental health disease also increases the chances of developing the illness. Lack of social support may also increase the said likelihood. Females are twice as likely to develop this disease than males are.

The kinds of trauma that they could’ve witnessed/experienced is as follows: 

  • Natural disasters
  • War and combat
  • Sexual or physical violence
  • Severe diseases
  • Torture
  • Childhood or domestic abuse
  • Accidents 
  • Traumatic childbirth events, like losing a child when giving birth

PTSD treatment

The main part of the PTSD treatment is therapy, though some medication may be required. The treatment is focused on helping the client take the control of their life and regain a sense of balance, peace, hope and optimism in life. 

 Therapy: 

The therapy for PTSD involves three kinds of approaches; cognitive therapy, exposure therapy, and eye movement desensitization and reprocessing therapy  (EMDR). 

Cognitive therapy helps you identify your unhelpful and unhealthy thinking patterns, and replace them with rather healthier and more helpful ones. 

Exposure therapy helps you face the fact that you’ve gone through such an event, and helps you accept your memories and the situation, and cope with it much more efficiently. It can also use virtual reality and augmented reality technologies which expose you to the kind of environment you experienced the trauma in much more safely. 

Eye movement desensitization and reprocessing therapy is usually combined with exposure therapy in a way that uses a series of eye movements that are guided, and they help you handle and manage your perception of the event, the memories, and associations in a better way. This changes the way you react to the memories. The therapists at Incontact have specializations in EMDR, and have years of experience in using this therapeutic treatment to help the clients recover from PTSD.

Medication: 

Medication for PTSD involves antidepressants, anti-anxiety drugs, and prazosin.

Frequently Asked Questions:

Q. How can I speed up my recovery from PTSD? And what can I do to cope better on my own?

The first and foremost tip would be to follow your therapy and medication plan properly and sincerely. Talk to your therapist with utmost honesty and take your prescriptions very seriously. Secondly, do not turn to alcohol or other drugs as it will slow down your recovery. Educate yourself as much as you can about the condition so you know what you’re going through better. And do join a support group, because there are many others going through things similar to what you are going through and it wouldn’t hurt to connect!

Q. What are some of the signs of PTSD in children?

In very young children, some indicators would be bedwetting, inability to speak, and being overly clingy with a parent or a caregiver. The adolescents, however, may show some disruptive and destructive behaviour.

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