Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD): Symptoms, Causes & Treatment

About 3.6% of adult Americans (5.2 million) experience PTSD through the course of the year and approximately 7.8 million Americans will experience PTSD in their lives. PTSD can come at any stage of life which includes childhood. Statistics show that women experience PTSD more than men. This may be from the fact that women make up the highest number of rape, domestic violence or abuse.

Who Suffers from PTSD?

  • Anyone who experienced or witnessed a life-threatening situation
  • Survivors of violent acts, e.g., physical and sexual assault, domestic violence, physical or verbal attacks.
  • Survivors of a natural disaster, terror attacks, car accidents or other unexpected dangerous attacks
  • Civilians exposed to war or combat veterans
  • People who experience or just heard of a sudden death of their loved one
  • Emergency responders who rescue people in fatal accidents.
  • Children who are abused (verbally, sexually, physically) and neglected

What are the symptoms of PTSD?

Symptoms of Intrusive memories

  • Upsetting nightmares or dreams about the traumatic event
  • Recurrent and unwanted memories of the traumatic event
  • Having flashbacks of the event
  • Physical and emotional effects on things that remind you of the traumatic experience

Symptoms of avoidance

  • Avoiding anything that reminds you of the event such as; people, places, and activities
  • Avoiding to talk or think about the event

Symptoms in Negative Mood or Thinking

  • Trouble having positive thoughts
  • Difficulty keeping relationships
  • Detachment from friends and family
  • Lack of interest in your hobbies
  • Feeling emotionally numb
  • Hopelessness about the future
  • Negative thoughts of the world, other people or yourself
  • Memory problems including forgetting important details of the traumatic incidence

Symptoms of Changes in Emotional and Physical Reactions

  • Difficulty sleeping
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Anger outbursts, aggressive behavior, and irritability
  • Overwhelming shame or guilt
  • Self-destructive behaviors such as reckless driving and drinking
  • Always on the lookout for danger
  • Being easily startled or frightened

For children below six years old, symptoms may include;

  • Frightening dreams in relation to the event or not
  • Wetting the bed when they had learned to use the washroom
  • Being unable to talk or forgetting how to talk
  • Being clingy to an adult or parent
  • Re-enacting the distressing event or phases of the traumatic occasion through play

Intensity of symptoms

PTSD symptoms may change from time to time. You may experience many PTSD symptoms when you experience the event or come across things that remind you of the incidence. For example, a victim of sexual abuse may experience more symptoms when they see a report on sexual assault.

When to see a Doctor

If you are having trouble resuming to your normal life a month after the incidence, and still experiencing negative emotions; visit a mental health professional or doctor. Treating PTSD early can help prevent the symptoms from getting worse.

If you have suicidal thoughts

  • If you are feeling suicidal  or know an individual who has the suicidal thoughts; get help from one of this;
  • Reach out to a loved one or a close friend
  • Contact a spiritual leader, a member of your faith community or your minister
  • Schedule an appointment with a mental health official
  • Call a suicide hot-line number. In the USA (1-800-273-8255) to reach a trained officer.

How Can I get better?

Fortunately, PTSD can be successfully treated. Support and treatment are critical in your recovery journey. Even though the thoughts may not completely disappear, you may learn how to deal with emotions or negative feelings when they come up. You can learn to reduce the intensity and frequency of the thoughts.

Psychotherapy. Although facing the trauma you went through can be painful; doing it with professional help can ease the situation.

During exposure therapy, you are taught to confront the disturbing events of your traumatic incidence.

Cognitive behavioral therapy helps you change your mindset and get rid of the thoughts that stop you from overcoming anxiety.

Cognitive Processing Therapy helps you process all the emotions about the traumatic event and teach you to challenge your thinking patterns.

Psychodynamic psychotherapy helps you identify and focus on current life situations that worsen or set off the PTSD symptoms.

During the Reprocessing and Eye Movement Desensitization, you think about the traumatizing experience as your therapist moves a baton on you. You follow the movement with your eyes. This helps your brain reduce negative emotions as your brain processes the event.

Family therapy and couples counseling help family and loved ones understand each other.

Support groups.This form of therapy helps you share your feelings and thoughts openly with other people to come into peace with your experience. Talking to other trauma patients can help in getting over the situation. You gain confidence and know you are not alone in your journey. You can contact your local Mental Health America organization for a list of support groups.

Medicine. Medicine such as SSRIs and selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors is used to treat PTSD and symptoms. Sedatives can help you sleep well.

Self-care. Recovering from PTSD is a process. However, they are healthy steps that can help you recover and live healthily. Discover what helps you and add it in your daily life;

Relax. Every individual has his/her own methods to relax. They may include taking a walk, listening to music or reading a book. You can also relax by deep breathing, yoga, massage therapy or meditation.

Exercise. It helps release tense muscles, which improves your sleep and mood as well as boost your strength, and energy.

Keep a journal. Writing can help improve health and reduce stress. Researches show that writing significantly helps in working through the PTSD process.

Get enough rest. Having enough rest helps you cope with your problems better, recover from the stress of the day and lower the risk of illness. See that you sleep at least seven or nine hours a night.

Limit caffeine. Caffeine may disturb your sleep or trigger anxiety.

Limit TV Watching. If watching certain programs or news bothers you; reduce the time you watch. Avoid listening to disturbing news before going to sleep; it might keep you from falling asleep.

Refrain from alcohol and drugs. As much as taking drugs may seem to help calm you down, it may worsen your symptoms, cause abuse or addictions hence delaying your recovery.

Help others. Participate in community work; research shows that participating in community projects builds self-esteem, gives a sense of accomplishment and builds social networks.

Final Verdict

Some events that happen to our lives can change our way of thinking, and how we live. Losses and traumatizing experiences can stick in our brains and trouble us. However, there are several mechanisms to cope with PTSD. Talk to your friends and seek medical help. By so doing, you learn how to cope with stress or control the emotions related to your traumatic experiences.

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