Post Traumatic Stress Disorder
What is Post Traumatic Stress Disorder?
Post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is a condition that is triggered by a traumatic and terrifying event. This event impacts an individual’s mental health. The individual may have personally experienced the traumatic event or just witnessed it. For some individuals, a traumatic event causes an individual to have temporary symptoms that cause the individual to have problems coping and adjusting. Eventually, those symptoms improve. When the symptoms get worse, or last for months or years, and continue to interfere with an individual’s every day life, then the individual has post traumatic stress disorder.
What Are the Symptoms of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder?
Symptoms related to post traumatic stress disorder can start as soon as 30 days after the trauma occurs, however, it may takes years for the symptoms to appear. Each individual has a different type of response to the trauma. These symptoms significantly impair an individual’s ability to handle every day life and interact with people in social situations.
There are four categories of symptoms of post traumatic stress disorder. They are avoidance, intrusive memories, changes in physical and emotional reactions, and negative changes in thinking and mood. The symptoms and their intensity change and vary over time and are different for each individual.
Symptoms of avoidance include avoiding thing, places, and people that remind the individual about the traumatic event. The individual also avoids thinking and talking about the trauma.
Symptoms of intrusive memories includes recurring memories of the trauma that are not wanted and distress the individual. The individual also has flashbacks and relives the trauma and if it were happening again right in that moment. The individual has nightmares or dreams about the trauma. Another symptom is a severe physical response or emotional distress when something reminds the individual about the trauma.
Symptoms of changes in physical and emotional reactions are the individual becomes frightened or startled easily. The individual is always on guard and expecting a threat or danger. Individuals often engage in self destructive behavior that includes but is not limited to drinking excessively or driving faster than is safe. The individual may have trouble sleeping or concentrating. He or she may have angry outbursts, be irritable, or exhibit behavior that is aggressive. The individual may also be overcome with shame and guilt.
Symptoms of negative changes in thinking and mood are the individual feels hopeless about his or her future. Individuals that suffer from negative changes in thinking and mood have negative thoughts about himself, others and the world around him. Individuals may have memory problems that includes forgetting important pieces of the trauma. These individuals often feel separated and detached from their family and friends and as a result find it challenging to keep relationships. They often find it hard to experience and express happy or positive emotions. They no longer have any interest in activities they once enjoyed and found happiness doing. These individuals feel numb instead of feeling any type of emotions.
Children that are under six years of age may have some additional symptoms such as during play they re-enact some or all of the aspects of the trauma that occurred. They may suffer from nightmares that may include pieces of the trauma.
How Is Post Traumatic Stress Disorder Diagnosed?
A doctor must diagnose a post traumatic stress disorder. To diagnose it, the doctor should perform an exam that is checking for a physical medical problem that may be the cause of any symptoms the individual is having. Next, the doctor will evaluate the individual’s mental state. The doctor will discuss the symptoms the individual is having and the events that led to the symptoms. Then the doctor can accurately diagnose post traumatic stress disorder.
Treatment for Post Traumatic Stress Disorder
Treatment is very important to help the individual reduce the symptoms of the post traumatic stress disorder. If the individual can reduce the symptoms, he or she can learn to improve his or her ability to function in every day life. An individual with post traumatic stress disorder may feel as though he or she is out of control and treatment can help him feel in control again. The primary method of treatment is psychotherapy. Medication is also an effective method of treatment. Many doctors feel that combining the two treatments reduce the symptoms and make the treatment more effective. When an individual is in treatment, he learns skills to cope and handle his symptoms. The individual also learns how to think more positively about himself and the world around him. He also learns how to cope with symptoms whenever the appear again. There are often secondary conditions as a result of post traumatic stress disorder. This conditions include anxiety, depression, and alcohol and drug abuse.
There are several different types of psychotherapy. Children and adults both seem to benefit from talk therapy.
Cognitive therapy is a type of talk therapy that helps the individual understand they way he or she is thinking and why those thoughts are keeping him stuck in the same place.
Exposure therapy is a type of behavioral therapy that helps the individual face the things he or she find scary, such as memories of the trauma. When the individual learns to face the scary memories, then he can learn how to cope with those memories that make him afraid. This type of therapy is effective for flashbacks and nightmares. Doctors have been using programs that are virtual reality based to help the individual go back to the setting where the trauma occurred.
Eye movement desensitization and reprocessing (EMDR) therapy combines the rapid eye movement of the individual in combination with exposure to memories of the trauma. This type of therapy helps the individual process those memories and change his reaction to them.
Stress management is an important coping skill to learn when you have post traumatic stress disorder. Learning how to cope and breath through difficult moments when triggers occur is important for recovery. The individual can also participate in individual and group therapy in an effort to connect to others who have post traumatic stress disorder as a result of trauma.
There are several types of medication that can help improve an individual’s symptoms of post traumatic stress disorder.
Antidepressants help those you have depression and anxiety. These types of medications can help control the symptoms of depression and anxiety. These medications can help with concentration and sleep. Zoloft and Paxil are among the medications that are approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for treating post traumatic stress disorder.
Anti anxiety medications help calm the symptoms of severe anxiety and all things related to anxiety. One of the negatives to these medications is that there is a tendency for these medications to be abused by the individuals that are taking them. For this reason, this medications are used for only a short time.
The doctor and the individual must work together to determine which medication is the best option. All medications have side effects, together the individual and the doctor can determine which one has the least amount of side effects and does the best to control the symptoms. When a medication is working properly, the individual should begin to see improvements within a few weeks of use.
As with anything, the best way to cope with the symptoms of post traumatic stress disorder is to stick with the treatment plan. The individual should take medication as prescribed and meet with his or her doctor at the scheduled appointments. The individual must take care of himself by getting enough rest, eating properly and exercise. The individual should avoid activities that are self destructive, such as drugs and alcohol. Most importantly, the individual should remain connected to his or her support system so they can offer support when things become challenging.