Intro to Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)
There are many people out there who diagnose themselves with Posttraumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), but not all of them actually have the disorder. Today, I want to introduce you to the disorder so you can decide whether you should seek a therapist to explore the topic further.
PTSD is a mental disorder characterized by debilitating symptoms that occur as a result of experiencing or witnessing a traumatic or terrifying event. Granted, it’s normal to experience anxiety, fear, painful memories, and so on after a traumatic event. It’s quite a shock to the nervous system and emotional body!
However, if these experiencing linger on and daily living skills continue to be affected, it could be PTSD. If the person continues to have persistent memories, dreams, or thoughts about the event or experience, or isolate from others and numb their feelings, it’s likely it’s more than the normal symptoms. PTSD used to be referred to as “shell shock”; a term that became popular after war veterans came back from war displaying signs of PTSD.
Along with those experiencing the trauma of war, those who experience accidents, natural disasters, kidnapping, rape, and violence are prone to experiencing the disorder too. According to The National Center for PTSD, those who experience combat or sexual assault are more likely to experience PTSD.
- Re-living the trauma (flashback)
- Isolating from people or life in general.
- Not talking or even thinking about the event
- Feeling shame or guilt about the event. Feeling negative about life. Feeling like life is hard and dangerous.
- Feeling overly anxious and jittery, always feeling like danger is just around the corner.
Someone with signs of PTSD may experience other problems too, such as:
- Substance abuse
- Trouble holding a job
- Chronic pain
- Trouble in relationships, not being able to connect
- Anger management problems
Re-living the trauma
If you struggle with signs of PTSD, you’ll re-live the trauma at various times, usually through nightmares or memories throughout the day. The recollections come randomly, and some struggle more than others. Some are more prone to re-live the trauma when they are triggered by something that reminds them of the trauma, such as a loud noise.
How PTSD affects daily life
It’s challenging for someone with PTSD at times. Many struggle with disruptions in sleep, not being able to feel their feelings (numbing), depression, and anxiety. They may struggle with being in an intimate relationship, isolate and refuse to engage in activities once enjoyed, and display more anger than they used to.
Mild or Severe Signs of PTSD
If you struggle with signs of PTSD, you may also struggle with feelings of anxiety, anger, rage, substance abuse, and depression. Your symptoms may be mild or they may be severe. You may be doing fine, and then for no apparent reason you may fly into a rage. Or you may have experienced a trigger and “lost it”. This can make it challenging to hold down jobs, relationships, and more.
A flashback is when you experience a trigger of some sort and you re-live the trauma all over again. You may hear a gun shot and all of a sudden, you’re reliving the trauma of being at war. You may smell the mud, hear weapons firing and screaming, feel terrified, and so on. The person experiencing the flashback temporarily loses touch with reality momentarily, experiencing the trauma for a few seconds, minutes, or hours.
Treatment for PTSD
Fortunately, there are treatments for PTSD, usually in the form of psychotherapy and medication to treat specific symptoms like depression or high anxiety.
Psychotherapy (Talk counseling)
- Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) – This is a very common treatment for PTSD. There are different types of CBT.
- Cognitive Processing Therapy (CPT) is one where you’ll spend some time learning how the trauma changed your perceptions, thoughts, and feelings. When you can think about the trauma differently, your feelings can change.
- Prolonged Exposure (PE) is another type. Here you’ll repeatedly talk about your trauma until the negative feelings you have toward it decrease or dissipate. You sort of desensitize yourself this way, even going to places that you once avoided because they acted as triggers (as long as they are safe places).
- Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR) – this type of therapy concerns the patient putting attention on various sounds and hand movements while they talk about the trauma. This will help re-wire the brain as it works through the traumatic memories.
Medication for PTSD
Medication can certainly be helpful too for PTSD. Some are prescribed SSRIs and SNRI’s, which have been found to be helpful for those struggling with signs of PTSD. A discussion with a psychiatrist will be helpful in determining if medication is necessary for treatment. Oftentimes, both counseling and a medication combined can prove quite helpful.
If you’re struggling with memories of trauma, reach out to a therapist who has experience treating PTSD patients. You do not have to struggle and you’re not alone. There are various treatments out there, and sometimes it takes trying out several before finding one that works for you. There are specialists who specialize in PTSD, always staying abreast of the latest cutting edge treatments that may benefit those with signs of PTSD. Do a little research to see who is specializing in your area. Don’t be ashamed or afraid to reach out for help. You deserve a life free from the debilitating effects of PTSD.
Dominica Applegate is an author, writer, and transpersonal spiritual teacher. Her teachings have helped millions of people experience emotional healing, relationship repair, and spiritual awakening. Earning her BA in Psychology and MA in Counseling, she worked 12 years in the mental health field before diving full-time into writing.
She runs Rediscovering Sacredness, an online portal that offers inspiration, essays, resources, and tools to help heal inner pain and experience more peace and joy.
Her books include Recycle Your Pain: It Has a Purpose, Into The Wild Shadow Work Journal, and a collection of poetry entitled, The Pain, It Shapes Her World.