PTSD

What is PTSD? PTSD or post-traumatic stress disorder is a mental health condition resulting from a traumatic event. Many people associate PTSD with soldiers returning from combat, suffering violence or a life-threatening injury or illness.

The misunderstood truth about PTSD is that somebody may not be perceived to have directly suffered harm; severe bullying, losing a loved one and many other non-physical events, however, can manifest as long term psychological trauma. PTSD creates a sense of anxiety that can lead people to live everyday life feeling a sense of danger or impending doom, even in a seemingly safe environment.

Athletes, celebrities, soldiers have all suffered from PTSD; this trauma does not mean you are weak or incapable. You are never too young or old to suffer PTSD. With the correct care and understanding, it is possible to deal with the effects. 

PTSD symptoms

PTSD can make everyday life difficult. The symptoms of anxiety, desperation and fear can easily be triggered by situations, sounds or even words that remind you consciously or unconsciously of traumatic events. PTSD can cause severe anxiety and depression. PTSD can also lead to panic attacks which may manifest as a racing heart, headaches, extreme fatigue, fear and lightheadedness.

We divide the symptoms of PTSD into four categories:

Intrusion

Intrusion is when people relive distressing memories of a traumatic incident. People dealing with this kind of PTSD may relive these events through vivid & reoccurring nightmares or flashbacks; this can also cause both physical and emotional distress.

Avoidance

Avoidance is when people deliberately avoid situations that remind them of the traumatic event. This may also mean avoiding people or locations that trigger distress.

Arousal and Reactivity

People suffering from PTSD may show symptoms of paranoia: they are often alert, waiting for something bad to happen. This will affect their livelihood in many ways: they become easily distracted by negative thoughts from seemingly ordinary activities such as work or socialising. 

They may also startle easily, either because they have distanced themselves from their surroundings or they are feeling paranoid. People may often seem angry or frustrated.

Cognition and Mood

PTSD can create conditions that change the way of thinking of the person suffering. People suffering may start to feel negative thoughts about themselves: their self-worth may become questionable to them, they may even develop irrational worries related to the event. 

These overwhelming feelings can often cloud a person’s recollection of the event, sometimes leading to them to place blame on themselves. People suffering from these symptoms may withdraw themselves from indulging in things they often enjoyed. 

PTSD in Men & Women

While men and women are differently prone to certain symptoms, they can certainly suffer from the same symptoms. 

Women are more likely to get PTSD than men and their symptoms often last longer. Women with PTSD are more likely to suffer from anxiety and depression but can often feel emotionally numb or detached. They may be both easily startled and more prone to triggers of the traumatic event than men.

Men with PTSD are more prone to reliving traumatic memories than women. Men may detach themselves from certain situations and are more prone to paranoia. In men, symptoms start soon after the event, but may also manifest much later.

It is important to note that men and women may suffer from similar symptoms and that no persons’ feelings are the same; individual symptoms of PTSD are down to their particular trauma and life.

PTSD Treatment

Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR) is a treatment which, in small doses, triggers the recollection of traumatic events in the client while the therapist distracts their eye movements. Many studies have shown EMDR therapy to be one of the most effective treatments for PTSD. The Department of Veterans Affairs’ recommends EMDR to treat PTSD.

As the client’s eye movements are distracted by the therapist while recalling traumatic memories, their attention is somewhat divided; this allows the therapist to expose the client to memories without there being a psychologically damaging response. Due to being exposed to those memories over time, the effects of those negative feelings will be reduced.

EMDR is considered to be a very effective form of therapy for PTSD sufferers that find it difficult to recall or talk about past events.  What is EMDR?

PTSD Causes

While not everyone who suffers a traumatic event will suffer from PTSD, some people will develop PTSD. It is possible that as a result of trauma, physical changes may occur in the body and brain: an increase in stress hormones may occur, which could explain why people react in an unconventional manner while suffering from PTSD.

Medical PTSD

Traumatic events from a medical emergency may trigger PTSD in as serious a fashion as something like violence. Sometimes medical events that are not generally perceived to be emergencies may cause PTSD if the event was traumatising to the person suffering. 

If you are thinking about the medical event and it causes some kind of anxiety or sense of impending danger, you may be suffering from PTSD. Generally, your healthcare provider will observe you for signs of PTSD if you are suffering from those feelings more than a week after your medical situation.

Postpartum PTSD

Giving birth is normally one of the most rewarding times for any mother, but that doesn’t mean it can’t be a difficult and even traumatic experience. Childbirth is not often associated with PTSD; however, some studies have shown that up to 4% of women suffer some form of PTSD after giving birth. 

Pregnancy, while rewarding, can be physically distressing, as a result, it can lead to psychological trauma, especially if your pregnancy was complicated. Women who suffer from fear of giving birth, inadequate support, abnormal physical pain or other distress are much more likely to show symptoms of PTSD.

Caring for your newborn can be very difficult if you are suffering from symptoms of PTSD. Your healthcare provider should screen you for signs of trauma after the birth of your child.

PTSD Diagnosis

Many clients are reluctant to fully recall or explain to the health specialist what they are suffering. This means there is no accurate test to measure or diagnose PTSD. It is possible to follow criteria that helps health specialists label the client as suffering from PTSD. 

To be diagnosed with PTSD by a health specialist, you will need to meet the following criteria for at least one month:

  • two or more arousal and reactivity symptoms
  • two or more cognition and mood symptoms
  • one or more intrusion symptoms
  • one or more avoidance symptoms

The symptoms must compromise your livelihood in some capacity, such as making work or looking after yourself difficult.

Types of PTSD

While PTSD is considered a condition on its own, it is useful to break down symptoms into subtypes in order to make it easier to diagnose and treat the client. 

Acute Stress Disorder (ASD) is a group of symptoms that develop within the first month after the traumatic event. Symptoms such as avoidance and stress can combine together and develop into PTSD.

Dissociative PTSD is a type of trauma in which you feel you are detached from the event or that you experienced the event from outside your body.

Uncomplicated PTSD is when symptoms are easily identifiable as PTSD related. You may be reliving the traumatic incidents over and over or may display symptoms avoidance related to people, places and other triggers. You won’t have other mental health issues related to this trauma if you have uncomplicated PTSD. This is one of the more easily treated PTSD.

Comorbid PTSD is when symptoms of PTSD combine with other mental health disorders, such as depression. This type of PTSD is best dealt with by treating both the mental health issue as well as the trauma. 

We can further describe symptoms through specifiers: 

Derealisation is when a person feels both physically and emotionally removed from people and people and struggle to make sense of the environment they are in. 

Delayed Expression is when a person does not match the criteria to be diagnosed with PTSD until at least 6 months after the event, even if some of the symptoms occur before.

Complex PTSD

Most cases of PTSD revolve around a single incident, such as being assaulted or an accident. Some PTSD may revolve around a series of incidents, that may have occurred over a long period of time, such as war or domestic violence; Complex PTSD describes the effects of long term traumas.

Trauma that has occurred over a period of time can cause more severe PTSD symptoms than the trauma of a single incident. In addition to intense PTSD symptoms, people suffering from Complex PTSD may suffer other symptoms such as low self-esteem

PTSD in Children

Children are more likely to recover easily from traumatic events than adults, however they may also display symptoms of PTSD. Children may suffer sleep-related symptoms such as difficulty sleeping and nightmares. They may also show prolonged fear, negativity and anger.

PTSD and Depression

PTSD can often seem like depression; however, they are two separate psychological conditions. PTSD may develop symptoms that cause depression; this can then overlap with PTSD which makes it difficult to diagnose what the client’s condition is and subsequently treat them. 

Both PTSD and depression may cause changes in behaviour: people suffering from either or both may be observed avoiding activities they normally enjoy, distancing themselves from others, difficulty sleeping and even show more noticeable signs of anger or sadness.

PTSD Dreams

Sleep is an often overlooked requirement for the body; without adequate sleep, your body may not replenish efficiently. Sleep may also allow a person to process their thoughts. When a person has PTSD, sleep becomes difficult; some people may lie in bed for hours without falling asleep, but most people who have suffered a traumatic incident often find difficulty in sleeping. The negative effects of lack of sleep have an impact on a person’s mental wellbeing and can create a deadly cycle. 

Unfortunately, even when people with PTSD fall asleep, they may experience nightmares related to the event. PTSD increases the chances of having nightmares. A study performed by the US National Center for PTSD has shown that 52% of Vietnam war veterans suffer from frequent nightmares, compared to the civilian average of 3%. The nightmares suffered by people with PTSD are often described as “replicative” as they may take place more than once a week; these dreams are more distressing than regular nightmares.

 

EMDR is considered to be a very effective form of therapy for PTSD sufferers that find it difficult to recall or talk about past events.

PTSD in Teens

Teenage years are notoriously challenging. Teenagers suffer from an increased supply of hormones that can make them more emotionally unstable. This coupled with the transformational difficulties of no longer being a child, having greater responsibilities and a changing social dynamic can make teenage years some of the most difficult for anybody.

Teenagers suffering from PTSD are likely to become irritable or even hostile and may struggle or be reluctant to discuss how they are feeling. This can make it difficult for parents or teachers to get them the necessary care. Teenagers are prone to high-risk activity that may endanger themselves, such as drug or alcohol abuse.

Coping with PTSD

Treating PTSD through will help you understand, identify and manage your symptoms and provide a platform for you to feel confident again. Understanding what PTSD is will allow you to explore your feelings more safely.

While professional care will help significantly, it can be even more beneficial if you also have adequate support from your family and friends. A healthy lifestyle will significantly help you overcome PTSD; it is important to maintain a balanced diet, exercise well and get the recommended amount of sleep. You should also try to avoid situations that can trigger anxiety.

Support from your psychotherapist and loved ones is very helpful, but it may also help if you engage safely with other people who suffer PTSD. Support groups are one of the best ways to meet people who may have similar struggles. There are online support groups which allow you to engage with others from home and there are local support groups where people meet.

You aren’t alone in struggling, there are plenty of people who also deal with overwhelming emotions and many of them overcome their issues.

PTSD Risk Factors

PTSD or post-traumatic stress disorder is a mental health condition resulting from a traumatic event. PTSD is often associated with soldiers returning from combat or suffering violence or a life-threatening injury or illness. It can include other traumatic incidents such as childhood abuse, domestic or sexual violence or horrific accidents. Trauma that has occurred over a period of time can cause more severe PTSD symptoms than the trauma of a single incident. 

You may be at an increased risk of PTSD if you have other unfavourable conditions: feeling stressed in your work, family or social life can make you more prone to PTSD. If you have other mental health issues such as depression or are suffering from substance abuse, you are also more prone to PTSD. Some people, whether through work or their surroundings, are more likely to be exposed to traumatic events: this could be the environment they live in or they have a dangerous job.