Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder
Alli Walsh, Social Media Strategist
Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder
Traumatic events of any kind—natural disasters, war, a serious accident, sudden loss of a loved one or other life-threatening events—cause a strong reaction in the body and mind as a person copes with what’s happened. And while most people recover and move on, people who suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) struggle to return to “normal” for months or years following an especially stressful experience.
The most common symptoms of PTSD include:
- Reliving the trauma through flashbacks and nightmares
- Emotional numbness and avoidance of trauma-related people, places and things
- Difficulty sleeping and concentrating
- Feeling “jumpy”
- Being easily irritated or angered
About 7.7 million Americans over the age of 18 have PTSD, according to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America. Women are twice as likely to develop the condition, possibly because of increased risk of sexual assault and a higher propensity to self-blame. Regardless of gender, the condition may develop in tandem with depression, substance abuse or anxiety disorders.
If you or someone you love has experienced trauma, it’s important to allow time to heal and recover. In the first month, symptoms are the body and mind’s normal processing of events. For those whose struggles continue, help is available
For people with PTSD, it’s critical to find a licensed mental health provider with experience in dealing with the condition. Once established with a healthcare provider, a specific cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) based on the patient’s needs may be recommended. CBT focuses on understanding the complicated relationship between a person’s thoughts and behaviors. After identifying unhealthy patterns, a qualified therapist works with the patient to develop constructive ways of thinking that break negative patterns. CBT methods include:
- Exposure therapy: By reliving the traumatic event, a therapist and patient create new ways of coping.
- Cognitive restructuring: Therapists work with patients to relieve feelings of guilt or shame and understand the event was beyond their control.
- Stress inoculation training: Using anxiety-reducing techniques, a therapist helps people look at traumatic memories in a more healthy way.
- Virtual reality treatment: By exposing a person to their most feared situation, in a highly customized and controlled environment, a traumatic event can be experienced in a different and more positive way.
Sometimes anti-depressant medication is needed to treat PTSD as well. A doctor will work with a patient to determine a customized treatment plan. This may involve trying different medications and therapies to find what works best.
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