• Lady J

All You Need to Know About Posttraumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)

Updated: Jul 1, 2020

When people hear the term, PTSD, people think of solders that have seen combat. However, soldiers are not the only on who can suffer from PTSD. This post seeks to educate those who think they may suffer from it, if you do, please talk to your doctor and set up an appointment immediately. PTSD can take you down a dark path if you leave it untreated.

What is PTSD?

According to Psychiatry.org, posttraumatic stress disorder is a psychiatric disorder that can occur in people who have experienced or witnessed a traumatic event such as a natural disaster, a serious accident, a terrorist act, war/combat, rape or other violent personal assault. 

Although a diagnosis of PTSD requires that you have been exposed to an upsetting traumatic event, exposure can happen indirectly.  For example, if someone learns of a violent death of a loved one or is repeatedly exposed to details of trauma, PTSD can happen to those individuals.

What Are the Symptoms of PTSD?

PTSD symptoms fall under 4 different categories:

  • Intrusive thoughts 

  • Repeated, involuntary memories

  • Distressing dreams

  • Flashbacks of the traumatic event

  • Flashbacks may be so vivid that people feel they are re-living the traumatic experience or seeing it before their eyes.

  • Avoiding reminders of the traumatic event 

  • Avoiding people, places, activities, objects and situations that bring on distressing memories

  • People may try to avoid remembering or thinking about the traumatic event

  • They may resist talking about what happened or how they feel about it.

  • Negative thoughts and feelings 

  • Ongoing and distorted beliefs about oneself or others (e.g., “I am bad,” “No one can be trusted”)

  • Ongoing fear, horror, anger, guilt or shame

  • Much less interest in activities previously enjoyed

  • Feeling detached or estranged from others.

  • Arousal and reactive symptoms 

  • Being irritable and having angry outbursts

  • Behaving recklessly or in a self-destructive way

  • Being easily startled

  • Having problems concentrating or sleeping

Other factors that influence your symptoms

  • Symptoms must last more than a month and persist for months or years

  • Symptoms can appear within 3 months or later

  • Symptoms cause distress or you have problems functioning

As I stated above, many of these mental health disorders overlap and if you suffer from PTSD, it can occur with other related conditions like depression, substance abuse, memory issues and physical problems. 

This information has been taken directly from Psychiatry.org’s website.

How Is PTSD Treated?

PTSD is treatable and over time the symptoms can subside or disappear with the help of friends, family, clergy and professionals. Please note that the earlier you seek help, the better the outcome.

Here are the different forms from psychiatry.org’s website, of the different treatments psychiatrist and other mental health care professionals use to treat PTSD:

  • Cognitive Processing Therapy

  • Modifying painful negative emotions (such as shame, guilt, etc.) and beliefs (such as “I have failed”; “the world is dangerous”) due to the trauma

  • Therapists help the person confront such distressing memories and emotions.

  • Prolonged Exposure Therapy

  • Repeated, detailed imagining of the trauma or progressive exposures to symptom “triggers” in a safe, controlled way to help a person face and gain control of fear and distress and learn to cope

  • For example, virtual reality programs have been used to help war veterans with PTSD re-experience the battlefield in a controlled, therapeutic way.

  • Group therapy

  • Encourages survivors of similar traumatic events to share their experiences and reactions in a comfortable and non-judgmental setting

  • Group members help one another realize that many people would have responded the same way and felt the same emotions

  • Family therapy may also help because the behavior and distress of the person with PTSD can affect the entire family.

  • Interpersonal, Supportive and Psychodynamic therapies

  • Focus on the emotional and interpersonal aspects of PTSD.

  • These may be helpful for people who don’t want to expose themselves to reminders of their traumas.

  • Medication

  • Help to control the symptoms of PTSD. In addition, the symptom relief that medication provides allows many people to participate more effectively in psychotherapy.

  • Some antidepressants such as SSRIs and SNRIs (selective serotonin re-uptake inhibitors and selective norepinephrine re-uptake inhibitors), are commonly used to treat the core symptoms of PTSD. They are used either alone or along with psychotherapy or other treatments.

  • Other medications may be used to lower anxiety and physical agitation, or treat the nightmares and sleep problems that trouble many people with PTSD.

  • Other treatments including complementary and alternative therapies

  • Acupuncture 

  • Animal-assisted therapy  

When to See A Doctor

If your symptoms last more than a month, severe or having trouble getting your life under control,  Getting treatment as soon as possible can help prevent your PTSD symptoms from getting worse.

Are You Having Suicidal Thoughts?

If you are having these thoughts please do the following ASAP:

  • Call 911 for immediate help

  • Contact the National Suicide Prevntion Lifeline 1.800.273.8255

  • Make an appointment to talk with your therapist or mental health professional

  • Reach out to your tribe

  • Contact a minister or spiritual leader that you trust can help you 

Unfortunately, we cannot prevent all traumatic events in our lives and how they affect us, however, we can control how we decided to seek consistent help.  My life has been filled with ups and downs, but the only traumatic event that I’ve experienced so far is witnessing the death of my father.  To see the doctors and nurses perform CPR on him, how the tube was down his throat, how the room was working in ordered chaos to help save his life.  To have the doctor politely tell me that he’s brain dead and they’re performing CPR for the sake of my mother.  Watching my mother cry - she never cries.  Having to tell her to stop the doctors from performing life saving measures because my dad wouldn’t want this, to hear the flatline and to know he was really gone messed with me for a while.  Even now as I write, tears are rolling down my face.  

For a long time after his death, I couldn't get what I saw, felt and experienced out of my head.  It was like I would relieve it over and over again, I would close my eyes and see EVERYTHING.  I felt guilty telling my mom to stop the doctors, I still can to this day hear my older brother crying after I told him and when he asked me if anything else could be done, having to tell him no.  The most painful part of this was having to tell my then 5 year old son, who was very close to his Pop Pop, that he was gone.  I will never forget the sound of my son crying for an hour after that and how he would cry everyday since the time I told him and doing my best to help him while I was dealing with my own grief.  

So, I just had a mini melt down and came to the realization that my PTSD has been suppressed and I need to deal with it.  

I’m going to end the blog here - at this moment I need to practice what I preach and take some time so practice self care.  However, let me say this before I go, PTSD affects more than those that have seen combat, so don’t feel like whatever has caused your PTSD to seem insignificant.  If you have the symptoms, seek help and don’t wait!

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*I am not a licensed therapist.  This post does not serve as a form of therapy or diagnosis.  If you are experiencing an emergency, please call 911 or your doctor.