Most of us go through a frightening episode that we come out of without any damage or long term effects. But a large number of people exist who suffer the aftermath of a traumatic experience in unhealthy that puts pressure on one’s mental health. This condition, where negative thoughts interfere with daily life is called post-traumatic stress disorder or PTSD.
Posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD), once called shell shock or battle fatigue syndrome, is a serious condition that can develop after a person has experienced or witnessed a traumatic or terrifying event in which there was serious physical harm or threat. PTSD is a lasting consequence of traumatic ordeals that cause intense fear, helplessness, or horror. Examples of things that can bring on PTSD include sexual or physical assault, the unexpected death of a loved one, an accident, war, or natural disaster. Families of victims can develop PTSD, as can emergency personnel and rescue workers.
It is natural to feel afraid during and after a traumatic situation. Fear triggers many split-second changes in the body to help defend against danger or to avoid it. This “fight-flight or freeze” response is a typical reaction meant to protect a person from harm. Nearly everyone will experience a range of reactions after trauma, yet most people recover from initial symptoms naturally. Those who continue to experience problems may be diagnosed with PTSD. People who have PTSD may feel stressed or frightened, even when they are not in danger. Ptsd isn’t failing of a person or doesn’t make one weak willed, it is a treatable malfunction of the memory of certain dangerous experiences that allows us to cope better with it
Symptoms of PTSD most often begin within 3 months of the event. In some cases, however, they don’t begin until years later. The severity and duration of the illness can vary. Some people recover within 6 months, while others have it much longer. A major challenge of coping is sensitivity to triggers, physical and emotional stimuli that the brain associates with the original trauma .Symptoms of PTSD often are grouped into four main categories, including:
Reliving: People with PTSD repeatedly relive the ordeal through thoughts and memories of the trauma. These may include flashbacks, hallucinations, and nightmares. They also may feel great distress when certain things remind them of the trauma, such as the anniversary date of the event.
Avoiding: The person may avoid people, places, thoughts, or situations that may remind them of the trauma. This can lead to feelings of detachment and isolation from family and friends, as well as a loss of interest in activities that the person once enjoyed.
Increased arousal: These include excessive emotions; problems relating to others, including feeling or showing affection; difficulty falling or staying asleep; irritability; outbursts of anger; difficulty concentrating; and being “jumpy” or easily startled. The person may also suffer physical symptoms, such as increased blood pressure and heart rate, rapid breathing, muscle tension, nausea, and diarrhoea.
Negative cognitions and mood: This refers to thoughts and feelings related to blame, estrangement, and memories of the traumatic event.
Anyone can develop PTSD at any age. According to the National Centre for PTSD, about 7 or 8 out of every 100 people will experience PTSD at some point in their lives. Women are more likely to develop PTSD than men, and genes may make some people more likely to develop PTSD than others.
It is important to remember that not everyone who lives through a dangerous event develops PTSD. In fact, most people will not develop the disorder. Many factors play a part in whether a person will develop PTSD. Some examples are listed below. Risk factors make a person more likely to develop PTSD. Other factors, called resilience factors, can help reduce the risk of the disorder.
Some factors that increase risk for PTSD include:
- Living through dangerous events and traumas
- Getting hurt
- Seeing another person hurt, or seeing a dead body
- Childhood trauma
- Feeling horror, helplessness, or extreme fear
- Having little or no social support after the event
- Dealing with extra stress after the event, such as loss of a loved one, pain and injury, or loss of a job or home
- Having a history of mental illness or substance abuse
The goal of PTSD treatment is to reduce the emotional and physical symptoms, to improve daily functioning, and to help the person better manage with the event that triggered the disorder. The main treatments for people with PTSD are medications, psychotherapy (“talk” therapy), or both. Everyone is different, and PTSD affects people differently, so a treatment that works for one person may not work for another. It is important for anyone with PTSD to be treated by a mental health provider who is experienced with PTSD. Some people with PTSD may need to try different treatments to find what works for their symptoms. Medication for treating PTSD is antidepressants, which may help control PTSD symptoms such as sadness, worry, anger, and feeling numb inside. Other medications may be helpful for treating specific PTSD symptoms, such as sleep problems and nightmares.
Recovery from PTSD is a gradual and on-going process. Symptoms of PTSD seldom disappear completely, but treatment can help people learn to manage it more effectively. Treatment can lead to fewer and less intense symptoms, as well as a greater ability to manage feelings related to the trauma. Research is on-going into the factors that lead to PTSD and into finding new treatments.