Dealing with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)
When most people hear the term PTSD, they think of military veterans. While Post Traumatic Stress Disorder is a mental health issue which is experienced by many military veterans, it is not exclusive. It is a mental health illness which also affects victims of abuse, such as rape, or childhood abuse, survivors of natural disasters, such as hurricanes or earthquakes, and any many other types of traumatic events which one could experience in their lifetime. PTSD doesn’t affect every single person who has experienced some type of trauma and not much is really known why some are affected by it, while others may not be.
What is PTSD? Post Traumatic Stress Disorder is a debilitating mental illness which a person may develop as a result of experiencing one or more traumatic events which threaten their safety, may cause physical harm and/or a threaten an immediate death. This could be the result of a sexual assault, participation in a war/warfare, and other types of stressful events which threaten one’s safety or could result in imminent death. PTSD victimization extends to people who may have witnessed a terrifying traumatic event such as a murder, rape, or bad accident.
Many people are unaware that a stressful, traumatic event is the cause of their development of PTSD and often go through life experiencing the symptoms of it, never knowing why.
Some symptoms of PTSD include:
Mood Disturbances, such as sadness, emotional distress, guilt, loneliness, nervousness, hopelessness, inability to feel pleasure, or anger….
Behavioral Disturbances, such as social isolation, self-harm, self-destructive behavior, irritability, and hyperviligence…
Psychological Disturbances such as, severe anxiety, panic attacks, depression, flashbacks, fear, hyperviligence, and/or hallucinations……
Sleep Disturbances: such as, nightmares, night terrors, sleep deprivation or insomnia..
Cognitive Disturbances: such as, unwanted, intrusive thoughts, suicidal thoughts….
Other types of symptoms could include, headache, emotional detachment, or lack of emotional response.
It does not mean that every person will have all of these above symptoms all at once and there could be other illnesses which could be the cause of them. You might have some or all of these. A trained counselor or therapist will be able to help you determine if you symptoms meet the criteria for PTSD or other mental health illness.
Often times, these symptoms could go unrecognized for years and the trauma survivor unknowingly goes through their daily life experiencing these types of symptoms. Many don’t know or understand the source of their anxiety or stressors are being triggered by the underlying post traumatic stress disorder as they live their daily lives.
For example, a woman is sexually assaulted, physically abused in a domestic violence situation that continues for years until she gets the courage to leave the abusive situation. Then she meets a new man, whom is not nearly as aggressive as the former, but sometimes displays anger and aggressiveness similar to the former partner. When this happens, the woman may feel instant fear, or like she’s walking on eggshells, or get anxiety in certain interactions with the new partner. These things that she feels could be getting triggered by the new partner as a reminder of the prior abuse. Which many times will result in the types of symptoms listed above.
There are too many scenarios to describe that one might feel which could be symptoms of PTSD. Events which occur in your daily life often trigger these memories of a past traumatic event which the brain retains and has never really fully processed. Many times these new events that happen tend to cause anxiety or panic attacks because the brain is running off of the memory of prior traumatic event causing on to feel a physical reaction as if it were the actual event happening all over again. In psychology terms, this is known as a flight or fight response.
Basically, a flight or fight response to an event which may not be a real danger is our body and brain working in its most primitive form. It’s the recall of the traumatic memory stuff in the brain which makes the person “feel” like the traumatic event is happening again and/or that there is some alert message the brain sends which is sensing danger.
The body then begins to respond physically as one would prepare for a “battle.” Your heart rate increases, your body becomes filled with adrenaline, you breathing changes, because your body thinks it has to prepare for this fight or run in flight. When what is really happening is that there is no real danger, but instead, your brain is running off of a retained memory of some former traumatic event. In essence, this is known as a flashback of the event, which is causing a panic or anxiety attack and both are two of the of the symptoms of ptsd.
The symptoms of PTSD listed above are indicators of the illness and if you are experiencing any of them, you should seek a mental health professional to assist you in determining what or why you may be feeling them. The symptoms could be from PTSD or some other type of mental health issue.
If you are suffering from PTSD, there are many treatments, such as counseling, cognitive therapy, behavioral therapy, Relaxation Techniques, Stress Management, Psychotherapy, Exposure Therapy, and EMDR (Eye Movement Desensitization Reprocessing) to name a few. A skilled professional such as a licensed mental health counselor can discuss treatment options for you individually based upon your symptoms and cause(s) for them.
Most people who develop PTSD can learn coping skills and get other treatment which could alleviate their symptoms. A first step is learning more about the illness and understanding your symptoms.
It is also important to remember that you are not alone! There is help available to you and therapy can provide a safe, supportive, non-threatening environment to you. Together, you and your therapist can develop a plan of treatment specific to your needs. Please contact Dana Nolan and receive a brief free phone consultation.
Finding the right counselor is important, therapeutic relationships are built on trust, honesty and mutual respect between the therapist and the client. It is important to find a counselor with whom you feel comfortable sharing your thoughts and feelings AND who has the necessary expertise to help you reach your goals. For that reason, we offer a free brief phone consultation to ensure that we are the right fit for you. If you would like to discuss assertiveness training or some other issue(s), please don’t hesitate to contact Dana Nolan at 407-340-2474.