PTSD and Trauma Disorders
If you have any family members or friends that have returned from military conflict and battled mental health challenges, the chances are high that these individuals suffer from PTSD or another form of trauma disorder. Most people unfortunate enough to suffer from a life-threatening, altering, or changing event are at high risk for PTSD.
Truthfully, this mental health disorder can present some of the most significant challenges out of all of the major psychiatric conditions. Crippling and debilitating are two of the most common descriptions associated with PTSD.
It may be difficult to identify PTSD initially because of the gradual onset of most of the symptoms. What begins with difficulties maintaining self-care and regular coping mechanisms eventually destroys the ability to function daily as full-blown PTSD takes hold. What defines PTSD specifically and how is it combatted?
What Is PTSD?
Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is a mental health disorder normally driven by a frightening or traumatic event in an individual’s past.
Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is a mental health condition that’s triggered by a terrifying event — either experiencing it or witnessing it. Symptoms may include flashbacks, nightmares, and severe anxiety, as well as uncontrollable thoughts about the event.
These events aren’t associated with PTSD in a minor way. In fact, they are at the center of the entire disorder.
Symptoms associated with these events and memories of them gradually increase in severity for months and years. Eventually, normal daily life can be nearly impossible as individuals struggle to cope with their memories, which at this point, have turned into nightmares or flashbacks.
Receiving treatment for PTSD is critical for stopping the most severe symptoms and returning to a healthy life. The following section contains information regarding the most common symptoms of PTSD.
Symptoms of PTSD
PTSD can start as soon as one month after the event in question. However, it’s not uncommon for symptoms to take years to surface. Symptoms cause severe problems in your social or professional situations and close personal relationships.
Your ability to accomplish even the simplest of daily tasks can be a challenge. The symptoms of PTSD are categorized into four different groups. These include intrusive memories, avoidance, negative changes in mood, and changes in physical and emotional responses.
Symptoms may vary over a long period and differ in separate individuals.
Symptoms included in the category of intrusive memories include:
- Recurring memories of the traumatic event
- Reliving the event as if it’s happening in real-time
- Nightmares that make you relive the event
- Emotional distress or physical response to something that reminds you of the event
The symptoms of avoidance usually are as follows:
- Attempting to avoid recollecting or speaking about the event
- Avoiding anywhere that might remind you about the event.
- Avoiding people and tasks that remind you of the event
- Negative changes in thinking and mood
Negative Changes in Thinking and Mood
Symptoms that accompany this category include:
- Negative thoughts about yourself or the world around you
- Feeling hopeless about the future
- Problems with memory or not remembering important details about the event
- Difficulty managing close relationships
- Feelings of detachment from friends, family, and reality
- Disinterest in hobbies you used to enjoy
- Trouble experiencing positive emotions
- Becoming emotionally numb
- Changes in physical and emotional reactions
Changes in Physical and Emotional Reactions
This specific category is also known as arousal symptoms. These symptoms include:
- Easily scared or startled
- Being on guard with no present danger
- Engaging in self-destructive behavior such as heavy drinking or reckless driving
- Difficulty sleeping
- Difficulty concentrating
- Angry outbursts and aggression
- Overwhelming shame or guilt for no apparent reason
Children under six years of age may suffer from this disorder as well. They will display the following signs:
- Re-enacting the event through play
- Intense nightmares that may or may not include elements of the event
Because of the level of trauma experienced during the specific event, the severity of the symptoms associated with PTDS can be quite severe.
Severity of Symptoms
In the beginning, symptoms may not seem to be overly intense. However, as time goes on, the symptoms can remain in a state of flux.
When you become more stressed, the intensity may increase. Additionally, hearing or living through things that remind you of the event may trigger more intense symptoms. For example, if you’re a combat veteran and hear a car backfire, it may remind you of things you witnessed and went through.
Victims of a savage beating may read a newspaper article outlining a similar event elsewhere, and they may become overwhelmed with flashbacks about their own incident. When symptoms become too challenging to deal with, it may be time to see professionals.
When to See a Mental Health Professional
When you have disturbing thoughts and feelings about a traumatic event for longer than a month’s time, or if it’s difficult to take back control of your life, it’s time to take action. Receiving treatment within the right amount of time can help prevent spiraling out of control symptoms.
You or someone you know must get immediate help if suicidal thoughts become a part of the situation. Prolonging treatment can be life-threatening, and you should never wait when suicide ideation is involved.
Causes of PTSD
Individuals may develop post-traumatic stress disorder when they go through or learn about an event that involves actual instances of death, injury, or sexual assault.
Doctors have had challenges figuring out why some people develop PTSD. Similar to other mental health disorders, PTSD is usually caused by a mix of:
- Stressful life events, including the level of trauma you’ve experienced
- Inherited mental health risks like a genetic history of depression
- Your temperament
- The way chemicals and hormones are regulated in the brain and respond to stress
There are more specific risk factors involved when it comes to developing PTSD.
Risk Factors for PTSD
PTSD can afflict individuals of any age. However, there are more common risk factors involved with traumatic events:
- Experiencing intense and extended periods of trauma
- Experiencing trauma extremely early in life
- A job that exposes you to traumatic events like military, police officers, and first responders
- Other mental health issues like anxiety and depression
- Problems with substance abuse and excess drinking
- Lack of a good support system
- Blood relatives with mental health disorders
Types of Traumatic Events that Lead to PTSD
Several common events lead to the development of PTSD. These events include:
- Combat exposure
- Childhood physical abuse
- Sexual violence
- Physical assault
- Being threatened with a weapon
- Violent accidents
Other traumatic events may trigger PTSD. These events include fire, disaster, plane crashes, torture, mugging, and kidnapping.
A diagnosis of PTSD may pose significant challenges that are incredibly disruptive to other areas of your life.
Complications of PTSD
PTSD will disrupt every important area of your life. This includes your occupation, personal relationships, health, and ability to enjoy daily activities.
Depression and Anxiety
Depression and anxiety may accompany PTSD. This disorder’s challenges and feelings may further progress into additional mental health and mood disorders.
Substance and Alcohol Abuse
Dealing with PTSD will lead many individuals to turn toward substance and alcohol abuse. However, self-medicating only complicates the situation further.
PTSD may lead to eating disorders. This may include overeating to cope with emotions.
One of the most common complications is suicidal ideation. When symptoms become too intense, individuals may display signs of being suicidal. Help must be sought immediately in these cases.
Because of the severity of PTSD, many individuals question if any form of prevention is available. Clearly, you can’t avoid the occurrence of a traumatic event, but can you prevent the onset of PTSD after the event?
Prevention of PTSD
When individuals suffer from a scarring event, PTSD-like symptoms may manifest at first, but in a minor way. They may be unable to stop thinking about the event. Fear, depression, and guilt can all be normal reactions to a traumatic event.
However, most people exposed to large forms of trauma won’t develop PTSD on a long-term scale.
When you get sufficient assistance and support to cope with stress from getting worse, chances decrease that you’ll develop PTSD. Turning to family, friends, and loved ones who listen and allow you to vent can be a great source of therapy.
Seeking the services of mental health professionals for intermittent appointments can help. Many people turn to a spiritual or higher power for a source of strength.
Any form of support may help prevent you from coping in an unhealthy manner, like substance abuse or other destructive behavior.
Support from others also may help prevent you from turning to unhealthy coping methods, such as misuse of alcohol or drugs.
Treatment of PTSD
Treating PTSD includes several options, including medication-assisted treatment and counseling services. There are no umbrella forms of treatment that cure PTSD, but individuals can find relief and recover with a mixture of appropriate therapies.
- Individuals will find relief in one-on-one counseling sessions and talk therapy. This is often the most effective form of treatment. It allows clients to vent and express their emotions regarding the event. Guided sessions allow clients to get to the root of feelings associated with the event and eventually allow them to process the events surrounding their trauma and begin to heal.
- Peer group sessions can also be effective in the treatment of PTSD because it give participants a sense of camaraderie. This has shown substantial benefits in cases of military veterans.
Multiple forms of PTSD and war veteran recovery groups exist in-person and online in the form of remote platforms. Additionally, trauma-based recovery groups for victims of various forms of violence and sexual assault can be significant pillars of strength.
At Icarus Behavioral Health, we specialize in providing the most important elements of treatment to assist in the recovery process. Contact one of our admissions specialists if you’re struggling with the negative consequences of a traumatic event.
How Does PTSD Begin?
PTSD begins with individuals suffering a traumatic event or experience that causes significant negative consequences, including nightmares, flashbacks, and other issues. Symptoms may begin on a subtle basis and gradually increase over a period of years.
Is There a Cure for PTSD?
There is no cure for PTSD or any other mental disorder. Just like there is no cure for substance abuse disorder, effective treatments allow individuals to enter recovery, which can be considered a form of remission.
What Causes PTSD?
Common situations that cause PTSD include:
- Violent assaults
- Sexual assaults
- Car accidents
- Death of loved ones
- Serious injury
Can Individuals of All Ages Suffer from PTSD?
Yes, PTSD can affect individuals of any age. This ranges from children to teens and young adults. There is no set demographic when it comes to individuals who suffer from this terrible disorder.