Article written by Chloe Nicosia
Anyone of any age is at risk for developing post-traumatic stress disorder after a traumatic event. A natural disaster, car accident, terrorist attack, or sexual assault can be the catalyst that brings on this debilitating disorder. War veterans are also common victims of PTSD. If you or someone you love is experiencing PTSD, you may notice symptoms that involve avoidance, hyper-reactivity, mood changes, and flashbacks to the traumatic event. These symptoms must be experienced for more than one month and must interfere with professional responsibilities and personal relationships in order to fit the definition of PTSD. But with help, recovery is possible.
Alcohol and Drug Abuse: Abusing intoxicants is a common way of trying to escape the unpleasant symptoms of PTSD.
Anxiety: Generalized anxiety is a very common symptom of PTSD. Startling easily and irritability are common, and this impairment can grow to the point where an individual finds it nearly impossible to function.
Avoidance: It’s common for people to cope with PTSD through avoidance. Avoidance can be physical, avoiding activities and places that may trigger symptoms., or it can be emotional, detaching from others to avoid feelings.
Behavioral Symptoms: Behavioral symptoms associated with PTSD include agitation, irritability, hostility, self-destructive behavior, and social isolation.
Cognitive Behavioral Therapy: Cognitive behavioral therapy addresses feelings of guilt, anger, fear, and powerlessness. This type of therapy works to resolve negative thought processes to change behavior.
Emotional Detachment: Someone suffering from PTSD often detaches from loved ones simply because they are emotionally overwhelmed. The individual is emotionally drained due to PTSD and has nothing left with which to maintain a connection with others.
Flashbacks: Flashback episodes can happen frequently, forcing people with PTSD to relive the traumatic event as if it is happening now. Often, an individual actually thinks the disturbing event is happening again because the flashback feels so real.
Hyperarousal: People often feel restless and jumpy when they are suffering from PTSD. The typical reaction to danger is either fighting it or fleeing, and this response is triggered by a surge of adrenalin. With hyperarousal, the body continually feels a surge of adrenalin as if it’s time to fight or flee.
Loss of Interest: PTSD often leads a person to lose interest in the activities and pastimes that were once enjoyable. This symptom is also common with depression, and it often accompanies feelings of despondency and overwhelming sadness.
Medication: Antidepressants are often prescribed for PTSD. These medications can help reduce sadness, anxiety, and anger.
Mood Symptoms: Mood symptoms of PTSD include angry outbursts, worry, guilt, sadness, and isolation from others.
Nightmares: People with PTSD often experience nightmares, which may involve reliving the traumatic experience. Sometimes, insomnia results from frequent nightmares as a person seeks to avoid these dreams.
Physical Symptoms: PTSD is a psychiatric disorder that may manifest with some physical symptoms. Difficulty sleeping and stomach complaints are common symptoms accompanying PTSD.
PTSD: Post-traumatic stress disorder is a condition involving ongoing mental and emotional stress. PTSD results from a severe injury or psychological shock, and it typically involves sleep disturbances and vivid recollections of the experience. People affected also experience dulled responses to others and the outside world.
Recovery: With professional help and the support of family and friends, it is possible to recover from PTSD. Everyone’s recovery will be unique.
Resilience Factors: Resilience factors can reduce the risk of developing PTSD. These factors include a strong support system of friends and family, the use of healthy coping strategies, and the ability to respond effectively during the event, even in the face of fear.
Risk Factors: Anyone who has lived through some type of trauma or dangerous event is at risk for PTSD. Feelings of helplessness and extreme fear can set the stage for developing this illness. People with a history of substance abuse or mental illness are at higher risk for developing PTSD.
Trauma: A traumatic event can stem from a variety of situations. It can involve something that happens to someone personally, to family members, or even to strangers. Traumas often involve significant fear, helplessness, pain, and feelings of being overwhelmed, which can lead to PTSD.
Treatment: Treatment time can vary for someone with PTSD. Some treatment plans may only span six to 12 weeks, while other treatment plans will take place over a longer period of time. Common treatments include cognitive behavioral therapy and medication.
Triggers: Triggers are any type of memory or situation that leads to negative feelings and behaviors. When these triggers happen, someone with PTSD may experience a flashback or other arousal symptoms.
A number of hotlines are available for people with PTSD in crisis. The Veterans Crisis Line offers help by phone or online chat. The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline is also always available to help people who need support. Anyone in crisis can also call 911 or visit a local emergency room for assistance.