What is post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)?
Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is a mental health condition that is triggered by an event that has traumatised one mentally, either through experiencing or witnessing it. Generally, after a traumatic event, anxiety will exist for a short period of time as the person slowly adjusts and copes with the event. This requires time and self-care. However, if the symptoms do not get better and last for months or years, as well as cause disruption to your daily life, then it is possible that the person is experiencing PTSD.
What causes PTSD?
PTSD is caused by traumatic events that have either happened to you, someone close to you or an event that you have witnessed. Examples of such events are:
- Accidents such as train wrecks and traffic collisions
- Manmade tragedies such as plane crashes, shootings, bombings
- Natural disasters such as earthquakes and floods
- Military combat
- Childhood abuse
- Violent personal attacks such as mugging, rape, torture, kidnapping or being held captive
What are the signs and symptoms of PTSD?
Symptoms for PTSD may begin to show soon after the traumatic event, and last beyond a month after the event. Sometimes, however, the symptoms may only emerge after a period of delay. Symptoms of PTSD can usually be grouped into reliving symptoms, avoidance and changes in arousal and reactivity.
For reliving symptoms one may have flashbacks, nightmares about the event that upsets them, hallucinations or extreme emotional distress or a physical response towards something resembling or reminding them of the traumatic event.
As for avoidance, you will see that those with PTSD will generally avoid speaking or thinking of the event. They would also avoid locations, activities or people that have the chance to revoke the memories of that traumatic event.
Another sign or symptom of those with PTSD is that you can observe changes in arousal and reactivity. They can be easily startled or terrified, constantly on the lookout for danger and always on edge, easily irritated, and experience rage or aggressive behaviour.
The severity of these symptoms may vary from person to person, thus it is vital to seek the professional council of a mental health practitioner.
How is PTSD diagnosed?
The mental health professional elicits the person’s history and assesses his mental state, and PTSD is diagnosed based on the history of exposure to a traumatic event and the consequent signs and symptoms, as well as the distress and impaired functioning that result. The appropriate physical examination and laboratory investigations are also performed when indicated.
What are the treatments for PTSD?
The main treatment for PTSD are psychotherapeutic measures. A trained therapist will teach you new ways to cope with what happened to you. Medications may also be prescribed when necessary, and to manage anxiety, depression or sleep difficulties.
There are several types of therapies that will be suggested by your health care professional such as:
Cognitive Therapy (CT)
This type of therapy assists you in coping with negative thoughts related to the trauma. You'll work with the therapist to work out how you feel and think about what has happened. You'll also learn coping skills to deal with the trauma. CT will not make you forget what happened, but it can make the memories easier to bear.
This gives you new ways to deal with trauma-related thoughts and situations. You will be introduced to breathing and relaxation techniques to calm yourself when you encounter triggers. You may enter situations that bring back memories of the trauma with the assistance of your therapist. Over time, you'll get better at controlling your reactions, which can help with avoidance. In order to assist you in gaining control over how you feel and think about the trauma, you will also have to talk about it.
PTSD treatment options also include: PTSD psychoeducation, family counselling, training in coping skills, acceptance and commitment.
Here at ParkCity Medical Centre PMC, Mindcentric mental health specialists are trained to provide treatments that are appropriate to your needs, and to guide you through the care process.