Mental Health

Understanding Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder

By August 26, 2020 No Comments

Anyone Can Experience PTSD

Understanding Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder - Lifeworks Counseling CenterTraumatic experiences leave a massive impact on the lives of those who witnessed them or experienced them. Often, these impacts ripple throughout their lives much longer after the incident is over. Some people have to deal with long-term injuries, while others experience psychological trauma.

In many cases, survivors of traumatic events experience post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Typically, people think of veterans and survivors of war when they think of PTSD. However, war and combat are not the only experiences that can lead to PTSD. Devastating accidents, natural disasters, physical and sexual assault, and much more are traumatic experiences that can trigger post-traumatic stress disorder.

PTSD is often debilitating for the individual experiencing it. It impacts virtually every aspect of their lives, from their personal relationships to their professional lives. PTSD causes individuals to disconnect from the world around them, and many of them experience flashbacks of the event.

Because so many people believe only survivors of war or combat experience PTSD, many people don’t think they have this disorder or do not think they can develop it. However, that is far from the truth.

There is a lot about post-traumatic stress disorder that many people don’t know, which leads to people not seeking the help they need. If you or someone you love is experiencing symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder, contact Lifeworks Counseling Center and let us help. 

What is Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder? 

Post-traumatic stress disorder is a psychiatric disorder that is triggered by a life-threatening, terrifying, or traumatic event. Those with PTSD either witness the event or experience it themselves. PTSD was formally known as “shell shock” in World War I and “combat fatigue” in World War II, but combat veterans are not the only ones to experience it.

There are plenty of events that can trigger PTSD in individuals, such as:

  • Car accidents
  • Natural disasters
  • Shootings
  • War/combat
  • Physical or sexual assault
  • Or other serious accidents

During these events, your body responds by engaging in your “fight or flight” instinct. Your body releases stress hormones, such as adrenaline and norepinephrine, giving you a surge of energy. Some tasks, such as short-term memory, are temporarily paused.

However, for those with PTSD, their brains are stuck in the danger mode well after the danger has passed. They continue to stay on edge. Their bodies continue to send out stress signals, which trigger PTSD symptoms.

Experts found that the area of the brain that controls fear and emotion (the amygdala) is far more active in those with PTSD. Unfortunately, this overstimulation changes your brain, leading to prolonged feelings of being on high alert. Also, the area of the brain that controls memory (the hippocampus) gets smaller.

Like we already said, anyone can experience post-traumatic stress disorder, which is why it is so vital to recognize the symptoms early.

PTSD Symptoms 

It is not uncommon for a person to experience PTSD symptoms for up to a month after a traumatic event. However, in many cases, symptoms do not appear until several months or even years after the event. Typically, these symptoms fall into four categories: intrusive memories, avoidance, changes in cognition and mood, and changes in physical and emotional reactions.

  • Intrusive Memories: These thoughts are recurring, involuntary memories, often of the incident in question. Individuals might experience distressing dreams or vivid flashbacks of the traumatic event. Often, these flashbacks are so intense that the person feels as if they are reliving the moment again.
  • Avoidance: An individual might avoid any reminder or trigger of the traumatic event, such as people, places, objects, activities, or similar situations. They will avoid talking or even thinking about the incident entirely.
  • Changes in Cognition and Mood: These changes are almost always negative. They can manifest as negative thoughts about themselves or the people and the world around them. Often, they struggle to feel positive emotions, or they feel emotionally numb. Individuals struggle with their close personal relationships, often feeling detached from friends and family. They also lack any interest in activities they once enjoyed, and they may struggle with their memory, particularly details of the event. Suicidal thoughts and tendencies can also occur.
  • Changes in Physical and Emotional Reactions: These individuals might be more irritable and may lash out angrily. They are often on edge, becoming startled or frightened easily. They may engage in self-destructive behaviors, such as substance abuse. Paranoia, trouble sleeping, difficulty concentrating, and feelings of guilt or shame are all common feelings those with PTSD experience.

How Common is PTSD?

Experiencing trauma is not a rare occurrence. Roughly 6 out of 10 men and 5 out of 10 women will experience trauma at least once in their life. While these experiences vary, the impacts are similar.

Between seven or eight out of every 100 people (roughly 7-8% of the population) will experience post-traumatic stress disorder at some point in their lives. Nearly eight million adults have PTSD in a given year, equaling just a small portion of those who have gone through trauma.

Women are more likely to experience PTSD than men, with 10% of women and 4% of men living with it.

PTSD Treatment 

Unfortunately, there is no cure for this psychiatric condition, but there are many treatment methods available that can help treat it. Remember, not everyone who goes through trauma develops PTSD, nor does everyone who develops PTSD need treatment.

Some people’s symptoms disappear overtime on their own, while others need professional treatment to recover. If you have disturbing thoughts and feelings regarding the traumatic event lasting for longer than a month, which keeps you from getting your life under control, speak with a mental health professional. The sooner you seek treatment, the better.

Psychiatrists and other mental health professionals have plenty of research-proven treatment options that can help you recover from PTSD. Psychotherapy (specifically, cognitive behavioral therapy) is very effective. Some examples of cognitive behavioral therapy include:

  • Cognitive Processing Therapy
  • Prolonged Exposure Therapy
  • Stress Inoculation Therapy
  • Group Therapy

Additionally, medication may also help control symptoms of PTSD, providing relief from certain thoughts and feelings. Medication will help your brain process threats better, allowing you to feel positive emotions and avoid flashbacks.

Seek Professional Help

Post-traumatic stress disorder can be devastating for many. Trauma is not rare, and it often leaves a lasting impact well after the initial event. PTSD can affect your professional life, personal relationships, and overall health. If you or a loved one are experiencing symptoms of PTSD, contact Lifeworks Counseling Center today to learn how we can help.

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