What is Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)?
Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, or PTSD, is an anxiety condition that follows the occurrence of a traumatic event, such as a natural disaster, combat, sexual assault, domestic violence, or any type of life-threatening event. PTSD was previously referred to as battle fatigue or shell shock. An incident that has a profound, stressful effect on an individual can trigger the disorder. It can occur at any age, affecting children as well as adult men and women. Very often, when a person is afflicted with PTSD, other conditions may also arise, such as Depression, alcohol addiction and substance abuse. Medical conditions may occur as well, due to the fact that the body is being subjected to a great deal of stress and anxiety.
What are the symptoms of PTSD?
A person who is suffering from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder may exhibit a variety of symptoms, and they fall into three distinct categories:
Reliving the event (“Re-experiencing”)
- Flashbacks will occur, where the person will relive certain parts of the event over and over again.
- Anything that reminds the person of the stressful event will elicit a very strong reaction.
- Nightmares may be a part of PTSD, with difficulties in falling asleep and staying asleep.
- There will be avoidance of anything that reminds the person of the stressful event, including people, places, objects, and situations.
- The PTSD sufferer may show a lack of interest in activities that were once enjoyable.
- The individual may report a numb, detached feeling, as though nothing matters or is worth caring about. He or she may also feel cut off from others on an emotional level, which creates feelings of isolation.
- Certain aspects of the traumatic event may be blocked from the memory.
- Moods may be muted or blunted to the point where the individual will not have the same emotions as were experienced before the traumatic event took place.
- The person may feel that there is no future for him or her.
- A person suffering with PTSD will have a hard time concentrating and keeping his or her mind on one thing.
- PTSD sufferers may also experience hypervigilance, where they are much more aware of what is happening in their environment.
- The person will startle very easily and have a strong response to anything that does startle him or her.
- Irritability will occur in this category, and the individual will be prone to bursts of anger.
- There might be feelings of guilt concerning the event. One form of guilt, known as survivor guilt, occurs when someone has come through an incident where other lives were lost.
- The individual may have a hard time getting along with family members, friends and coworkers.
- There may be an anxious fear that something bad is going to happen or that danger is always around the corner.
- Symptoms of anxiety may also occur, such as an awareness of a heartbeat, dizziness, agitation, fainting and headaches. There may be bouts of nausea and diarrhea, and the person may also experience higher blood pressure. Breathing can become rapid and muscles can tense.
When symptoms are experienced, they may occur on a sporadic basis, or they may become persistent and enduring.
What causes PTSD?
It is not known exactly what may be responsible for post-traumatic stress disorder. No lab tests or brain scans can be performed to ascertain if a person has the condition. A physician will diagnose it based on a clinical interview and the symptoms that are being experienced. An evaluation of a person experiencing PTSD symptoms will help to ascertain if the condition is present.
It is believed that various factors may be involved when PTSD develops. These include social, genetic, physical and psychological factors. Post-traumatic stress disorder affects how the body reacts to stress, changing stress hormones and chemicals that are transmitted between the nerves. Some individuals experience traumatic events without developing PTSD, while others who endure stressful situations will develop symptoms of the disorder
There are four subtypes of traumatic stress:
Acute Stress Disorder
With Acute Stress Disorder, the sufferer will show symptoms for a period no longer than one month after the stressor has occurred.
A person with acute or chronic PTSD will experience symptoms that last for 1-3 months (acute) or for longer, even years (chronic).
A person who has delayed PTSD may not show any symptoms until a considerable period of time has elapsed after the initial stressor has occurred. It may be years before symptoms develop.
Chronic and Delayed
This subtype will involve the occurrence of symptoms after six months have elapsed, and symptoms will last for a period longer than six months.
What types of treatment can be used for PTSD?
When an individual is afflicted with PTSD, there are various forms of treatment that may be used to help them get through the effects of their trauma.
- The PTSD sufferer may benefit from desensitization methods, which may involve different forms of exposure to potential reminders of the traumatic events. Gradually, sufferers may develop a greater tolerance for these traumatic reminders and a set of skills to manage the anxious, depressed, angry, or frightened feelings that emerge in this context.
- Support groups may be of great benefit to sufferers of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder. The members of focus groups, such as combat veterans or firefighters, are going through similar experiences, and it can be very helpful to discuss feelings with others who understand firsthand what the sufferer has endured.
- Medications, such as antidepressants and anxiolytics, have been used to help minimize anxiety and manage depressed mood. Sleep aids may also be used for those who have trouble sleeping and are bothered by nightmares.
Frequently Asked Questions
PTSD sufferers will have questions about their condition. Five of the more common questions are listed below:
How many people are afflicted with PTSD?
Approximately 8 million Americans will have PTSD symptoms at some time in their lives, and women are twice as likely to be afflicted with the disorder as men. It is estimated that 30 percent of men and women who serve in wars and have been subjected to activity in war zones will have some form of PTSD.
How does a person know if he or she has PTSD?
Anyone who experiences the symptoms listed above after a traumatic event has occurred should be aware of the possibility of PTSD and may want to contact a physician. If a number of symptoms are arising that are affecting day-to-day living and are very disturbing, an evaluation should be performed by a mental health professional.
Can a person be treated for PTSD?
The answer to this question is a resounding yes. There are treatment options available that can greatly help those afflicted with post-traumatic stress disorder. These individuals can benefit from proper care so that they may be able to resume a relatively normal lifestyle.
What is the prognosis for PTSD sufferers?
A great deal depends on the severity of the condition. Each individual who is afflicted with PTSD is unique and is going to have different symptoms and a different capacity for healing. With proper treatment, the quality of life can be greatly improved, in many cases to the point where a normal lifestyle can be resumed.
If a person with PTSD has additional physical and emotional ailments, how is this handled?
Many PTSD sufferers also have other problems due to the stress that is being experienced. Ideally all conditions will need to be treated in order for the person to have a better recovery. Treatment options exist to handle the various types of conditions that can accompany PTSD, such as depression and dependency on drugs or alcohol.
Why Bridges to Recovery for PTSD Treatment?
Bridges to Recovery has three locations in California to assist patients in dealing with a number of mental health matters, including PTSD. The facility offers residential treatment for those who desire in-depth options in an environment that is comfortable and inviting. Residential care takes place in a nurturing atmosphere that will be very conducive to recovery. A holistic approach is used, and each patient receives individualized attention through a unique treatment plan that is geared to his or her specific needs. Residences are located in Holmby Hills, Bel Air and Pacific Palisades.
Bridges to Recovery is celebrating 10 years of quality care for those who require assistance in handling disruptive and distressing emotional and mental health issues. Patients who are suffering with PTSD will find the help they need. Treatment may include: nutritional counseling, art therapy, yoga, massage therapy, meditation, weight training and aerobics under supervision, and dialectical behavioral therapy.
There is help for individuals who are suffering through their daily lives due to the debilitating symptoms associated with post-traumatic stress disorder. Bridges to Recovery can pave the way to a happier and healthier life, one that PTSD sufferers may have believed was not possible.