Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder

According to mental health professionals, post-traumatic stress disorder (or PTSD) is a mental condition that results in a series of emotional and physical reactions in individuals who have either witnessed or experienced a traumatic event.

Events that cause the individual to fear for personal life and wellbeing—such as a car collision or other accident, a physical or sexual assault, long term abuse, torture, a natural disaster, living in a war zone, or life-altering experiences like the death of a loved one—can all spur the following PTDS symptom

1. Physical Pain

PTDS will often begin with a series of common physical ailments—such as headaches or migraines, dizziness, fatigue, chest pain, breathing difficulties, and stomach and digestive issues.

2. Nightmares or Flashbacks

It’s very common for those with PTSD to suffer nightmares or flashbacks—a symptom known as re-experiencing—in which the patient suddenly and vividly re-lives the traumatic event in a repetitive manner. Re-experiencing can enter dreams or come on suddenly in waking images or sensations of physical and emotional pain and fear.  It may cause both children and adult sufferers to have sleeping difficulties and anxiety leaving the safety of home.

3. Depression or Anxiety

Mental phobias, which professionals deem as irrational and persistent fear and avoidance of certain objects or situations can cause extreme anxiety in PTSD sufferers to the point where it causes paranoia and depression.

4. Withdrawal

Both adult and children PTSD patients with solid social lives and interests may suddenly lose interest in favorite hobbies, activities, and friends that they used to be very passionate about. Seeking out risky behavior can also be a form of escapism through drug or alcohol abuse, or thrill seeking.

5. Avoidance

Avoidance of any physical or mental stimuli that reminds them of a past traumatic event can be typical of PTSD. For example, those involved in tragic car collisions may avoid driving and commuting in a car whatsoever.  I could also cause particular avoidances of places or people or places that are reminiscent you of the traumatic experience.

6. Repression

Repression, or the intentional blockage of memories associated with a past event or experience is also a symptom of PTSD. The patient may destroy pictures or memorabilia of a time in their life or attempt to distracting themselves by throwing themselves into work.

8. Hyper-arousal

It’s common for those with PTSD to suffer jitters so sever that it becomes impossible to relax due to the fear of threats. These individuals can be characterized as “on edge” and “jumpy” or easily frightened.

9. Irritability

This state of constant fear and paranoia can cause extreme PTSD-associated irritability, indecisiveness, and a total lack of concentration, sleeplessness, and difficulty maintaining personal relationships.

10. Guilt and Shame

Those PTSD patients who can’t get past their negative experience may find it difficult to move forward and maintain a healthy life. They may blame themselves and constantly relive the event, wondering how they could have prevented it. Often immense shame and guilt will set in if they blame themselves for the tragedy.

Mild symptoms include mild anxiety, nightmares, avoidance of stressful events, and general malaise. Medium symptoms include social withdrawal, depression, mild flashbacks of the stressor, and addiction problems. Severe symptoms include psychosis, reliving the events, and also extreme physical symptoms, which can include temporary blindness, deafness, nervous ticks, and paralysis.

Another component of post-traumatic stress disorder is survivors guilt. This occurs when the affected person does not believe they deserve to have survived while others have died.

There are no definitive tests for PTSD. A doctor will have to take the patient through mental health and physical health exams. A related illness, acute stress disorder, is much like PTSD but the symptoms are present for less than 30 days. PTSD symptoms occur for more than 30 days.

Treatment options for PTSD start with emotional support. Family, friends, or support groups will help the patient cope with the emotional toll of their stressor. Desensitization treatment has been found to be very effective for PTSD. This involves remembering and reliving the stressor situation with mental health professionals in a secure environment. This treatment takes place slowly, over a number of weeks or months. Overtime the patient should learn to cope with the frightening memories and process the situation better.

Support groups are vitally important for a person with PTSD.

Coping Strategies Post Trauma/Stress

Healthy ways to relax and recharge

  •  Go for a walk.
  •  Spend time in nature.
  •  Call a good friend.
  •  Sweat out tension with a good workout.
  •  Write in your journal.
  •  Take a long bath.
  •  Light scented candles
  •  Savor a warm cup of coffee or tea.
  •  Play with a pet.
  •  Work in your garden.
  •  Get a massage.
  •  Curl up with a good book.
  •  Listen to music.
  •  Watch a comedy
  • Don’t get so caught up in the hustle and bustle of life that you forget to take care of your own needs. Nurturing yourself is a necessity, not a luxury.
  •  Set aside relaxation time. Include rest and relaxation in your daily schedule. Don’t allow other obligations to encroach. This is your time to take a break from all responsibilities and recharge your batteries.
  •  Connect with others. Spend time with positive people who enhance your life. A strong support system will buffer you from the negative effects of stress.
  •  Do something you enjoy every day. Make time for leisure activities that bring you joy, whether it be stargazing, playing the piano, or working on your bike.
  •  Keep your sense of humor. This includes the ability to laugh at yourself. The act of laughing helps your body fight stress in a number of ways. You can control your stress levels with relaxation techniques that evoke the body’s relaxation response, a state of restfulness that is the opposite of the stress response. Regularly practicing these techniques will build your physical and emotional resilience, heal your body, and boost your overall feelings of joy and equanimity.
  • Learn the relaxation response

Other Coping Strategies Not Recommended:

These coping strategies may temporarily reduce stress, but they cause more damage in the long run:

  • Smoking • Drinking too much • Overeating or undereating • Zoning out for hours in front of the TV or computer • Withdrawing from friends, family, and activities • Using pills or drugs to relax • Sleeping too much • Procrastinating • Filling up every minute of the day to avoid facing problems • Taking out your stress on others (lashing out, angry outbursts, physical violence)