Post-traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) is expected in society today, with numerous individuals being prone to a traumatic event in their lifetime. About 8 million adults experience PTSD in any given year, with the number fluctuating wildly depending on the prevalence of a life-altering scenario.
Post-traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) usually happens to individuals after experiencing a traumatic event. This can vary from witnessing war, loss of loved one, sexual or physical abuse, health conditions, accident, or a natural disaster. Prolonged trauma can also make the affected individual prone to PTSD.
PTSD can also happen to families or close members of individuals with PTSD causing secondary trauma. This, however rare, can elicit mixed reactions and feelings from the affected individual, prompting the need for professional help.
What happens during PTSD?
For Post-traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) to occur, the individual is taken back to a time where they felt overwhelming levels of fear, helplessness, anger, or guilt. These feelings tend to make an individual relive the moments they weren’t able to do anything in their power to prevent the traumatic event and may cause dissonance with the way they view themselves and observe life.
During traumatic events, adrenaline is produced at increased levels, and people with PTSD tend to always make adrenaline even in calm situations. As a result, arousal emotions and feelings become numb due to the continuous adrenaline state they have despite the danger.
There are changes in the brain often experienced with PTSD. For instance, the brain loses its ability to process emotions and memory as the hippocampus becomes smaller in size. This affects an individual’s processing of memory, therefore distorting them and increasing anxiety over time.
Who is prone to PTSD?
The effects of PTSD can take a while to recover from and affect an individual’s quality of life. As symptoms of PTSD start from two months after a traumatic event, each individual is different from others experiencing it later on in life. Some individuals recover almost immediately, while others take a while to move on from the past traumatic event.
PTSD may also never happen to some people. Not every individual is susceptible to PTSD; however; there are various factors to determine whether an individual is most likely to experience it:
- Genetics – Genetic modifications can be a precursor to PTSD, especially if an individual comes from a history of PTSD affected people.
- Depression and anxiety – Individuals who are prone to depression and anxiety are more likely to inhibit PTSD symptoms as they withdraw from other people.
- Lack of emotional and physical support –Not having a support structure from a family of friends can lead a person to PTSD, especially during and after the trauma.
Symptoms of PTSD
The symptoms of PTSD usually come about to help the individual cope with the trauma and detach from its reality.
Individuals experiencing PTSD may experience the following symptoms:
- Reliving the event
PTSD individuals seek to relive the trauma through flashbacks and hallucinations, especially every date or month in which the event occurred.
- Severe anxiety
This is usually accompanied by irritability, anger or fear, and increased physical symptoms such as nausea, heart palpitations, and tension.
Insomnia is prevalent due to the consistent nightmares that remind an individual of the trauma.
- Emotional numbness
Individuals seek to numb their emotions towards people or places that seek to remind them of their trauma.
PTSD treatment varies for different age groups. For instance, children, adolescents, and adults have different treatment approaches, depending on their trauma levels. A war veteran will require a different approach from a six-year-old child who experienced their mother’s death. Therefore, it is crucial to observe the treatment protocols that come with counseling other age groups. The psychiatric or mental health professional bases treatment on reported symptoms and examines the dysfunction level for a personalized treatment plan.
Psychotherapy is one of the standard treatment techniques for PTSD individuals. Cognitive processing therapy seeks to observe the thought and emotional patterns behind an individual’s processing techniques. For instance, therapists employing cognitive processing therapy seek to prompt the individual to examine how the trauma has affected their lives by talking and reflecting. This, in turn, helps the patient develop new ways of living with their trauma without giving it precedence in their daily activities by understanding the events that happened beyond their control. Cognitive processing therapy usually takes around twelve weeks, depending on the individual.
Prolonged exposure therapy is another treatment technique aimed at ensuring the individual deals with the problem head-on. Most PTSD patients tend to avoid certain things, places, or people that remind them of their trauma; therefore, prolonged exposure therapy eases anxiety by incorporating breathing and massage techniques if an attack is imminent. Through this, the individual develops a list of what they are avoiding and later learn to face them one by one, reducing stress and anxiety.
The use of antidepressant medication is done in severe cases, coupled with therapy sessions. As PTSD causes the brain neurotransmitters to malfunction, medicine seeks to regulate the brain’s chemical compounds and prevent the individual from dwelling on past trauma. Medications also alleviate insomnia and nightmares commonly associated with PTSD. It is essential to consult a mental health professional before taking any medication to help manage PTSD. A professional will conduct necessary tests to prevent the patient from dependency and identify possible side effects that may arise.
In conclusion, PTSD is a gradual process that requires an individual to improve their mood and outlook by taking positive action to reduce helplessness feelings. Despite the above mentioned professional help techniques, engaging in activities to increase mobility will help remove the nervous system out of stress response mode. Seeking help through physical interactions can help the individual communicate and lessen the stress load either in the family or group therapy. Lastly, maintaining a healthy lifestyle, which constitutes of clean eating habits, enough sleep, and relaxation techniques, will go a long way in reducing PTSD symptoms.