Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is a mental health condition that gets triggered following an extremely frightening experience. It gets triggered by either experiencing it or witnessing it. The most common symptoms include frequent recollections, nightmares and severe anxiety, as well as overwhelming thoughts about the event. A majority of people who endure a traumatic experience will characteristically experience trouble adjusting and coping and it will soon start to obstruct their everyday functioning.
On average, post-traumatic stress disorder symptoms start to show within one month of a traumatic event. But this varies from person to person. Some people may not develop symptoms until another few years. PTSD symptoms are largely assembled into four major types
- Regular, undesirable, and upsetting memories of the traumatic event.
- Rehashing the upsetting event as if it were happening again (flashbacks)
- Distressing dreams or nightmares about the harrowing event
- Severe emotional distress or bodily reactions to something that reminds you of the traumatic event
- Trying to evade thinking or talking about the traumatic event
- Evading spaces, undertakings or folks that remind you of the traumatic event
Negative changes in thinking and mood
- You start developing negative thoughts about yourself, other people or the world
- A daunting sense of bleakness and hopelessness about the future
- Memory complications, such as not being able to recall significant aspects of the traumatic event
- Trouble maintaining close relationships
- Feeling disconnected from family and friends
- Want attention and interest in activities you once liked
- Struggle in experiencing positive emotions
- Feeling emotionally drained or impassive
Fluctuations in physical and emotional reactions
- Being easily alarmed or terrified
- Always being on guard for danger
- Self-destructive behaviour, such as drinking too much or driving too fast
- Trouble falling asleep
- Trouble staying focused and concentrated
- Bad temper, livid outbursts or hostile behaviour
- Crushing guiltiness or embarrassment
PTSD symptoms can differ greatly in their intensity over time. Its intensity would be maximised when you are experiencing stress or come across triggers. For instance, if you read up on an accident in the newspaper, you might be reminded of the time when you experienced it or you may see a report on sexual assault and feel overwhelmed by memories of your own assault.
One may develop post-traumatic stress disorder when they experience or even come across an event that involves actual or susceptible death, grave damages or sexual violation. Although doctors cannot provide a definitive answer for why people develop PTSD, complex occurrences of
- Nerve-wracking experiences
- The extent and severity of trauma you have experienced
- Inherited mental health risks, such as a family history of anxiety and depression
- Inherited features of your personality/ temperament
- The way your brain regulates the chemicals and hormones your body releases in response to stress
People of all ages can have post-traumatic stress disorder. However, some factors may make you more likely to develop PTSD after a traumatic event, such as:
- Experiencing strong or ongoing trauma
- Childhood abuse
- Pursuing a career that exposes you to traumatic events, such as military personnel and first responders
- Having other mental health problems, such as anxiety or depression
- Having problems with substance misuse, such as excess drinking or drug use
- Absence of a good support system of family and friends
Kinds of Traumatic Events
The most common events leading to the development of PTSD include:
- Combat exposure
- Childhood physical abuse
- Sexual violence
- Physical assault
- Being threatened with a weapon
- An accident
- Natural disaster
- torture, kidnapping
- Life-threatening medical diagnosis
Maroon in a Sky of Blue is a great book about a troubled teenager Onir who suffers from PTSD ever since his girlfriend died in a car crash.
Post-traumatic stress disorder can disturb your whole life. It may have lasting complications in your everyday life such as job, relationships, health and your overall gratification of everyday activities. Having PTSD also aggravates the danger of other mental health problems, such as
- Depression and anxiety
- Substance abuse
- Frequent pseudo-hallucinations
- Eating disorders
- Self-harm, Suicidal thoughts and actions
- Social isolation and phobia
After enduring an upsetting event, many people experience PTSD-like symptoms at first, Fear, anxiety, anger, depression, and guilt — all are common reactions to trauma. Nevertheless, the majority of people exposed to trauma do not develop long-term post-traumatic stress disorder.
Receiving suitable help and support may stop normal stress reactions from worsening and developing into PTSD. This may mean talking and opening your heart to friends and family who are supportive and willing to hear you out. Care and support from others also may help stop you from turning to harmful coping methods, such as misuse of alcohol or drugs. If the intensity of the traumatic event is quite exponential, it would be comforting to seek professional help for a short course of therapy.
- Acute Stress Disorder
- Adjustment disorder
- Disinhibited social engagement disorder
- Reactive attachment disorder
When to see a doctor
It is advisable to consult a doctor when you start to develop worrying thoughts and feelings over a traumatic event that lasts for more than a month. If you feel that the intensity is too overpowering and is starting to trouble your everyday life, then wait no more. In such cases, talking to your doctor or mental health professional will prevent your symptoms from getting worse. To make a diagnosis of the condition, the doctor will analyse the cluster of symptoms. You may need to be brief about any of your pre-existing conditions and may need to speak in detail about the traumatic events.
The medications that are generally prescribed to reduce the symptoms of PTSD include:
- Antidepressants: Drugs like paroxetine and sertraline are prescribed in the treatment of PTSD. These drugs will help resolve the problems of your lack of concentration and sleep. They will also help alleviate depression and anxiety.
- Alpha-blockers: Prazosin is frequently prescribed to lessen or subdue the symptoms of insomnia with recurring nightmares.
- Anti-anxiety medications: Your doctor may prescribe anti-anxiety drugs to relieve the symptoms of severe anxiety.
- Cognitive therapy helps one overcome and eliminate the undesirable dogmas that are related to past traumatic situations. It focuses on present thinking, behaviour, and communication rather than on past experiences and is oriented toward problem-solving.
- Exposure therapy: It is particularly beneficial in the treatment of flashbacks and nightmares. This will help you cope with the fearsome events of the past.
- Eye movement desensitization and reprocessing (EMDR): It is used in combination with exposure therapy, where a series of eye movements are done to change the perception towards traumatic memories.
PTSD patients are also increasingly receiving aid from other therapies, such as complementary and alternative medicine. In comparison to psychotherapy, these methods offer treatment outside of the typical mental health clinic and could include less talking and disclosure. Acupuncture and animal-assisted therapy are two examples.
Many PTSD sufferers find it extremely beneficial to talk about their experiences and feelings with other people who understand them, such as in a peer support group, in addition to receiving treatment.