Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)
Post-traumatic stress disorder is a serious anxiety disorder that can be triggered by some sort of traumatic experience in life. Trauma, whether experienced personally or when witnessed can produce fear, anxiety, helplessness and even horror that causes post-traumatic stress disorder to develop following the traumatic event.
While many people will experience traumatic experiences in life, not all will experience the signs or symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Sometimes, people who experience a traumatic event will also experience some of the signs of PTSD for a short period of time following the event but over time they will learn how to cope with and adjust to the situation. Other people may have symptoms of PTSD which cause disruption in their lives and the symptoms may last for months or even years following the traumatic experience.
Symptoms of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)
In most cases, the signs of PTSD will be prevalent within approximately 3 months of the traumatic experience but in some cases the stress may not begin until many years after the experience. The symptoms of PTSD can be categorized into 3 main types of symptoms known as intrusive memories, avoidance and numbing and increased anxiety or emotional arousal.
The symptoms of intrusive memories associated with PTSD include having flashbacks of the event or reliving the event. This may include feeling like the traumatic event is happening all over again and it could last for mere minutes or it may last for days. Another common symptom of intrusive memories includes having dreams of the traumatic event that are upsetting and difficult to handle. This is all part of “reliving” the traumatic experience over and over again.
Avoidance and emotional numbing begin when an individual avoids discussions of the traumatic event or feels emotionally numb when the experience is discussed. PTSD will cause an individual to avoid doing things that they may have previously enjoyed due to depression or because the activity reminds them in some way of the traumatic experience that they endured.
People who suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder may feel hopeless about the future because they are so depressed or miserable about the experience. The stress from the disorder may cause difficulty concentrating and can have a lasting impact on relationships. People with PTSD may find it difficult to maintain close relationships for fear of change, loss or future traumatic events.
Anxiety and increased emotional arousal may also result from PTSD. People with post-traumatic stress disorder are often irritable or have pent up anger that they have difficulty dealing with. On the other end of the spectrum, a person suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder may have feelings of overwhelming guilt or shame as a result of the traumatic experience and this often causes self-destructive behavior which may include using drugs or alcohol.
Post-traumatic stress disorder can cause an individual to have trouble sleeping. People with PTSD are often startled easily and may be scared all the time. Delusions are another common symptom that arises from PTSD. People with post-traumatic stress disorder may see or hear things that aren’t really there. These delusions may or may not have a relation to the actual event or traumatic experience that was endured.
The symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder may be prevalent for a while and then they may go unseen for some time. For some people, the symptoms of the disorder may be more prevalent during very stressful situations or when certain factors remind the person of the traumatic event. For instance, a person may hear a loud noise and relive the experience of being shot or a woman may see a newscast about a rapist and relive the experience of sexual abuse that was endured.
Causes of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder
Certain risk factors will place an individual at a heightened possibility of developing PTSD. People of any age or race can develop post-traumatic stress disorder as a result of enduring a traumatic event or experience. Statistics show that at least 8 percent of people will experience some form of PTSD in their lifetime. PTSD is most common for people who have endured long term trauma such as those who have served in wars or battles.
Women are at a higher risk than men are of developing post-traumatic stress disorder. This is most likely because women are often more likely to suffer from the sexual violence or other traumatic experiences that are more difficult to heal from mentally. Various events are more likely to cause PTSD than others and men and women each suffer from different experiences that have a high likelihood of causing such anxiety.
For men, the most common reasons to develop PTSD include exposure to combat or war, sexual abuse such as rape or certain types of physical abuse and childhood neglect. For women, traumatic events such as rape, attack, molestation, and childhood physical abuse may all cause PTSD. These are not the only events that can cause PTSD for men or women. Natural disaster, a car accident, life-threatening medical diagnosis or any traumatic experience can result in PTSD.
Certain factors will make a person more at risk of developing PTSD as a result of a traumatic event. People who suffer from an extremely severe traumatic experience or who are subjected to a prolonged traumatic event such as long term physical abuse are more likely to suffer from PTSD as a result of the experience. Additionally, those who have parents or siblings who have suffered from PTSD are at an increased risk of developing the disorder.
Certain mental health conditions can also place a person at an increased risk of developing PTSD. People who suffer from depression or who have first-degree relatives who suffer from depression may be at an increased risk of developing PTSD as a result of a traumatic event or experience. Various other mental conditions such as mood disorders or certain personality disorders may also increase the risk of a person developing PTSD.
Treatment for PTSD
There are a number of different treatment options for PTSD. In most cases, the treatment for post-traumatic stress disorder are very effective and can help a person to regain control of their life and fell better. People with post-traumatic stress disorder are taught new coping skills that can help them get past the stress and anxiety associated with the traumatic experience that they endured.
The most common types of treatment for post-traumatic stress disorder include medication and psychotherapy. Medications such as antidepressants may help to treat the anxiety and depression that is associated with post-traumatic stress disorder. Antidepressants can also help to alleviate certain sleeping problems and to improve concentration for people who suffer from PTSD.
Various forms of psychotherapy are also used to treat post-traumatic stress disorder. Cognitive therapy and talk therapy can help to change self destructive thoughts and behavioral patterns associated with post-traumatic stress disorder. Exposure therapy in which the individual suffering from PTSD is exposed to the situations that cause the most anxiety or fear may also be used to help the individual to learn how to cope with the disorder in a positive or effective way.
People who suffer from PTSD may also benefit from eye movement desensitization and reprocessing which focuses on exposing the individual to the events which cause anxiety and then using a series of guided eye movements that can help them to process traumatic memories. Additional types of psychotherapy that may be offered at rehab centers to treat post traumatic stress include cognitive behavior therapy, individual therapy and group therapy.