Understanding PTSD

Approximately 7.7 million people in the United States live with Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). People develop this psychiatric disorder after they experience something traumatic. The symptoms include realistic flashbacks, avoidance, and intrusive thoughts.

Many people associate PTSD with combat veterans. While these servicemembers certainly can develop the disorder, so can anyone else who is exposed to trauma. Individuals with PTSD may also develop other mental illnesses, including depression, addiction, and anxiety.

Sadly, many people with PTSD believe that because they cannot erase the trauma, they are doomed to live with their symptoms forever. However, treatment is available. Experienced mental health professionals can help people with PTSD reduce their symptoms and return to daily life, even if the pain of the trauma never fully subsides.

Types of PTSD

PTSD can manifest in many ways, but professional categorize the symptoms in four different types:

  • Intrusive memories: This includes flashback that feel real, nightmares about the trauma, and obsession over what happened.
  • Negative changes in mood and thoughts: People with PTSD may have pervasive thoughts about the world or their own worth. They can also struggle with retaining memories or maintaining relationships.
  • Avoidance: Patients act like the trauma never happened in an attempt to avoid processing the strong emotions. They may also acknowledge the event but avoid any possible reminders.
  • Changes in emotional and physical reactions: People with PTSD may feel like they are always on-guard and have difficulty relaxing.

Patients may exhibit symptoms from one of more types of PTSD. The symptoms often depend on the trigger that caused the PTSD.

PTSD Triggers

Any traumatic event can trigger PTSD in some people. Most notably, witnessing or being the victim of any of the following can cause the disorder:

  • Accidents in automobiles, trains, or planes
  • Assault
  • Mass shootings
  • Murder
  • Robbery
  • Natural disasters
  • Rape
  • Sudden death of a loved one
  • Terrorist attacks
  • War
  • Any other kind of violence

People with PTSD should avoid comparing the severity of their trauma against what causes PTSD in other people. No matter the cause, if a person has PTSD, he or she deserves help.

PTSD Symptoms

The signs of PTSD vary based on the person’s emotional tolerance, the event that cause the disorder, and their demographics. Two people who go through the exact same event together can have different struggles in the aftermath. Symptoms can include:

  • Feeling emotionally numb
  • Drug or alcohol abuse
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Depression
  • Irritability
  • Feeling on-guard all of the time
  • Trouble sleeping
  • Impulsive behavior
  • Nightmares or flashbacks
  • Startling easily
  • Anxiety
  • Avoidance

Types of PTSD Treatment

Due to the nature of trauma and the severity of the symptoms, some people with PTSD feel hopeless in their fight against the disorder. However, several types of therapies and medications can help. It can take some time for medical teams and patients to find the right combination of treatments. However, people with PTSD can see dramatic improvements when they are willing to find what works.

PTSD Support Groups

Sadly, many people with PTSD feel isolated because of their symptoms. Support groups for people with the disorder can help patients connect to others. Members share stories about their symptoms and talk about things that help them. By participating, patients process their emotions and learn that recovery is possible.

Individual Counseling for PTSD

Mental health professionals can meet one-on-one with patients to help them work through their feelings. Depending on the counselor’s training and patient’s needs, the professional may use counseling techniques such as:

  • Prolonged Exposure
  • Narrative Exposure Therapy
  • Cognitive Behavioral Therapy
  • Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing
  • Cognitive Processing Therapy

Therapist-Led Trauma Group Therapy

Counselor-lead group therapy sessions give participants the benefits of individual therapy and PTSD support groups. Not only do members learn coping mechanisms from a trained professional, but they also connect to one another.

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