Post-traumatic stress disorder develops in people who have experienced or witnessed a terrifying, dangerous or scary event. This happens when people undergoing traumatic events have difficulty adjusting or coping with it. However, this disorder should not be taken lightly as it can take a toll on the day to-day functioning of life.1 The good news is that this condition can be treated.
Everyone is susceptible to PTSD. From the common man, war veterans, accident victims, people who have been physically and sexually abused, people undergoing crisis to even children. As per the National Center for PTSD, out of about 100 people, 7 to 8 people will experience PTSD in their lives.2 Women are more susceptible than men and genetics too play a role in making some people more likely to experience it than others. Interestingly, people don’t necessarily undergo PSTD because of their own experience, they can even get this disorder if they have witnessed someone else in a traumatic event.
Symptoms usually begin within 3 months of the traumatic incident but can also begin years after the incident. They are:
- Intrusive thoughts
- Avoiding reminders of the event
- Memory loss
- Negative thoughts about self and the world
- Self-isolation; feeling distant
- Anger and irritability
- Reduced interest in favorite activities
- Difficulty concentrating
- Vivid flashbacks
- Avoiding people, places and things related to the event
- Casting blame
- Difficulty feeling positive emotions
- Exaggerated startle response
- Risky behavior3
Children and teenagers may show different kind of symptoms. Children less than six years in particular will exhibit the following symptoms:
- Wetting the bed in spite of learning how to use the toilet
- Not being able to talk despite knowing how to
- Scared even while playing
- Being clingy to a parent or another adult
Therapy for PTSD involves improving symptoms, teaching skills to deal with it and restoring self-esteem. Most therapies for PTSD are cognitive behavioral therapy where the focus is on changing thought patterns that cause disturbing thoughts.
Cognitive processing therapy – Here a therapist helps you to understand how your thoughts affected your life. By examining your thoughts about the disturbing event, you can figure out new ways to live with it.
Prolonged exposure therapy – This therapy helps you look at the things that you avoid because they are linked to the traumatic event.
Eye movement desensitizing and reprocessing – In this therapy there is no need to talk about the traumatic event. The focus here is to think about something positive as you recall the incident.
Stress Inoculation Training – This therapy again focusses on changing how you are dealing with stress from the event through breathing exercises and massages.4
Medications – Medications are also given to PSTD patients to deal with the disorder such as antidepressants, antipsychotics, beta-blockers, monoamine oxidase inhibitors (MAOIs) and benzodiazepines.
Additional tips to help cope with the disorder
Stick to your treatment plan – Treatment or therapy will take time, so don’t lose hope or patience and keep going consistently without taking a break.
Focus on self-care – Get enough sleep, eat healthy, exercise and stay calm and relaxed. Avoid nicotine and caffeine as they can worsen anxiety.
Take charge – There will be days or even moments when you feel low despite the treatment. Don’t dwell on the past or feel sorry for yourself, change your energy levels by going for a walk, jog or indulging in a hobby like painting or gardening.
Reach out – Be it your friends, family, colleagues or your therapist, ensure that you reach out to them as and when you need their support.5
Join a peer support group – Being a part of a support group where people share their experiences and feelings will bring you out of isolation. It will also help you shed inhibitions about your thoughts and feelings related to it. Your openness will help you heal faster.
All said and done PSTD is a disorder which can be treated. So just ensure that you get the best help possible at the right time for a quick recovery!
1. Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) – Symptoms and causes – Mayo Clinic
2. NIMH » Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (nih.gov)
3. Post Traumatic Stress Syndrome PTSD – Analytics for Living
4. 6 Common Treatments for PTSD (Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder) (webmd.com)
5. Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) – Diagnosis and treatment – Mayo Clinic