What is Post Traumatic Stress Disorder?
Post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is an emotional illness that develops as a result of a terribly frightening, life-threatening, or otherwise highly unsafe experience. PTSD sufferers re-experience the traumatic event or events in some way, tend to avoid places, people, or other things that remind them of the event (avoidance), and are exquisitely sensitive to normal life experiences (hyperarousal).
What are the effects of PTSD?
Untreated PTSD can have devastating, far-reaching consequences for sufferers' functioning and relationships, their families, and for society. Women who were sexually abused at earlier ages are more likely to develop complex PTSD and borderline personality disorder. Babies that are born to mothers that suffer from this illness during pregnancy are more likely to experience a change in at least one chemical in their body that makes it more likely (predisposes) the baby to develop PTSD later in life. Individuals who suffer from this illness are at risk of having more medical problems, as well as trouble reproducing. Emotionally, PTSD sufferers may struggle more to achieve as good an outcome from mental-health treatment as that of people with other emotional problems. In children and teens, PTSD can have significantly negative effects on their social and emotional development, as well as on their ability to learn.
What are the signs and symptoms of PTSD?
The three groups of symptoms that are required to assign the diagnosis of PTSD are
- recurrent re-experiencing of the trauma (for example, troublesome memories, flashbacks that are usually caused by reminders of the traumatic events, recurring nightmares about the trauma and/or dissociative reliving of the trauma),
- avoidance to the point of having a phobia of places, people, and experiences that remind the sufferer of the trauma and a general numbing of emotional responsiveness, and
- chronic physical signs of hyperarousal, including sleep problems, trouble concentrating, irritability, anger, poor concentration, blackouts or difficulty remembering things, increased tendency and reaction to being startled, and hypervigilance to threat.
How is PTSD treated?
Treatments for PTSD usually include psychological and medical treatments. Providing information about the illness, helping the individual manage the trauma by talking about it directly, teaching the person ways to manage symptoms of PTSD, and exploration and modification of inaccurate ways of thinking about the trauma are the usual techniques used in psychotherapy for this illness.
Education of PTSD sufferers usually involves teaching individuals about what PTSD is, that it is caused by extraordinary stress rather than weakness, how it is treated, and what to expect in treatment. This education thereby increases the likelihood that inaccurate ideas the person may have about the illness are dispelled, and any shame they may feel about having it is minimized. This may be particularly important in populations like military personnel that may feel particularly stigmatized by the idea of seeing a mental-health professional and therefore avoid doing so. Families of PTSD individuals, as well as the sufferer, may benefit from family counselling, couples' counselling, parenting classes, and conflict resolution education. Family members may also be able to provide relevant history about their loved one (for example, about emotions and behaviours, drug abuse, sleeping habits, and socialization) that people with the illness are unable or unwilling to share.
How can people cope with PTSD?
Some ways that are often suggested for PTSD patients to cope with this illness include learning more about the disorder as well as talking to friends, family, professionals, and PTSD survivors for support. Joining a support group may be helpful. Other tips include reducing stress by using relaxation techniques (for example, breathing exercises, positive imagery), actively participating in treatment as recommended by professionals, increasing positive lifestyle practices (for example, exercise, healthy eating, distracting oneself through keeping a healthy work schedule if employed, volunteering whether employed or not) and minimizing negative lifestyle practices like substance abuse, social isolation, working to excess, and self-destructive or suicidal behaviours.