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      Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder

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      What is Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder

           Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is a condition developing in people who have experienced a shocking, dangerous, or horrifying event. These include sexual assault, the death of a loved one, or a personal or natural disaster. Life-threatening events or enduring any traumatic incidents may cause PTSD.

           Classified as an anxiety disorder by the American Psychiatric Association (APA). PTSD is described as exposure to actual or threatened death, severe injury, or sexual violation. This exposure is resulting from either:

      • Direct experience of a traumatic event.
      • Witnessing a traumatic event in person.
      • Awareness of an actual or threatened, violent or accidental event that occurred to a close family member or friend.
      • First-hand repeated experience or exposure to distressing details of a traumatic event.

           While everyone experiences alarming events in their lives, most people recover from the initial effects naturally. Though some don’t. They continue to experience problems related to a lingering, haunting occurrence they can’t seem to get through. 

           These people may be diagnosed with PTSD. Those who have it may feel stressed, angered, or frightened, even when they are not in immediate danger.

           In describing post-traumatic stress disorder, it’s important to understand fear triggers. These cause split-second changes in the body to help defend against danger, or to avoid it. Often called “fight-or-flight” responses, these reactions cause a range of responses after a traumatic experience.

           The APA identifies four major clusters of behavioral symptoms that go with PTSD: re-experiencing, avoidance, negative cognitions and mood, and arousal. This disturbance causes clinically significant distress or impairment in the person’s social interactions. It also affects the ability to work and daily activities.  

           Doctors who have experience helping people with mental illnesses, such as a psychiatrist or psychologists, can diagnose and treat PTSD.

      Causes and Risk Factors

           According to the National Center for PTSD, eight out of every 100 people will experience PTSD during their lives. Research shows women as more likely to develop PTSD than men. Genetics may cause some to be more likely to develop PTSD than others.

           Factors that increase the risk for PTSD include people: emergency team helping injured motorbike man driver at night

      • Living through dangerous events and traumas.
      • Getting injured or seeing another person hurt.
      • Viewing a dead body.
      • Experiencing childhood trauma.
      • Long duration of feeling horror, helplessness, or fear.
      • Dealing with post-event stress, including loss of a loved one, pain and injury, or loss of a job or home.
      • Having little or no social support after the traumatic event.
      • Enduring mental illness or substance abuse.

           One group highly vulnerable to PTSD is military medical personnel. Military Medicine found that 10 percent of the deployed medical personnel have screened positive for PTSD. Reasons for the high occurrence rate include being removed from their identity, stature, and social support system they had.

           To reduce PTSD occurrence, these medical professionals receive team training prior to active-duty service. These skills provide coping abilities, in preparation for deployment and dealing with real casualty management.

           Using de-stress techniques prior to casualty handling, and post-event debriefing have proven helpful. They have reduced the incidence of combat-induced stress disorders.

           It’s important to note that not everyone with PTSD has been through a dangerous event. Some develop the condition after a friend or family member experiences danger or harm. The sudden, unexpected death of a loved one is another common cause of PTSD.

      Who Can Develop PTSD

           The National Institute of Mental Health (NIH) states that anyone can develop PTSD. Most cases are found to include war veterans and people who have been physically or sexually assaulted. Those having experienced abuse, an accident, or have endured a personal or natural disaster are at risk.

      Signs and Symptoms

           The NIH identifies the signs and symptoms of PTSD risk factors as an adult having these occurrences during a month:

      • One or More Re-Experiencing Symptoms. These cause problems in a person’s everyday life. 
        • The symptoms can start from the person’s own thoughts and feelings. These often include words, objects, or situations that are reminders of the event. They trigger re-experiencing symptoms, including flashbacks, or reliving the trauma over and over. 
        • Physical symptoms like racing heart or sweating often occur. Bad dreams and frightening thoughts are also systematic.
      • At Least One Avoidance Symptom. Reminders of the traumatic event can trigger avoidance symptoms. 
        • These may cause a person to change the personal routine they usually practice regularly. They often include staying away from places, events, or objects that remind the person of the traumatic experience. They also avoid thoughts or feelings related to the event.
      • Two or More Arousal and Reactivity Symptoms. Unlike triggered symptoms, arousal is usually constant. These make the person feel stressed and angry. They interfere with common daily tasks, including sleeping, eating, or concentrating. 
        • Arousal and reactivity symptoms include being easily startled and feeling constantly tense. Difficulty sleeping and angry outbursts typically go with this condition.
      • At least two cognition and mood symptoms. These can begin or worsen after the traumatic event but are not due to injury or any coping substance use. Issues surround trouble remembering details of the traumatic event. Negative thoughts about oneself or the world, in general, become prevalent, accompanied by feelings of guilt or blame. 
        • These people often experience a loss of interest in activities they typically enjoy. They make the person feel alienated or detached from friends and family members for no other reason.

           It’s common to have some of these symptoms after a dangerous event. PTSD is a probable diagnosis when symptoms last more than a month. Indicators include affecting one’s ability to function. This is without factors of substance use, medical illness, or anything except the event itself.

           PTSD symptoms may not show for weeks or months. This makes initial diagnosis more challenging. Another identification difficulty is that PTSD is often accompanied by depression, substance abuse, or an anxiety disorder.

      Seeking Help

           The PTSD Alliance recommends those experiencing symptoms should seek help from mentalhealth road sign on a speedy background with sunset health or medical professionals trained in treating PTSD. These include psychiatric service providers, mental health therapists, primary care doctors, OB/GYNs, social workers, and support groups.

           The Alliance also recommends people encourage their suffering family members and friends to get help

           Sometimes people with PTSD hesitate to seek the behavioral healthcare they need. It may be due to feeling shame or anger. They may be concerned about losing control or being embarrassed. They may believe that no one will understand what they’re going through.

           During a person’s treatment, friends and family will be a vital link to their full recovery. The first steps in getting help for PTSD victims include:

      • Avoid any language that might make them feel like they are crazy or at fault.
      • Talking about the benefits of therapy if they’re reluctant to seek help.
      • Don’t suggest that they need help during a heated conversation or argument; wait for a calm moment.
      • Accept their irritations with therapy and let them verbalize their frustrations.

           It is stressful to live with someone with PTSD. A person needs to set boundaries and have a good support system. Talking with others about dealing with the process will help. Proactive self-care is a vital part of supporting a loved one to getting help for posttraumatic stress disorder.

      PTSD Treatment Therapy Types

           The National Center for PTSD recommends pursuing treatment options with the most research support. They have found the most effective trauma-focused psychotherapies include:

      • Cognitive Processing Therapy (CPT) – Showing a person how to reframe negative thoughts about their traumatic experience. It includes discussions with a mental health counselor about negative emotions. It also includes writing assignments, adding a deeper level of introspection to enhance beneficial results.
      • Prolonged Exposure (PE) – This provides people the ability to gain control by facing negative feelings occurring from an event. It involves talking with a behavioral health provider about the trauma they’re experiencing. The goal is to get the person to do activities they’ve avoided since the trauma.
      • Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR) – The action is to help a person process and make sense of their trauma. It involves calling the event to mind. The patient focuses on that moment while paying attention to a back-and-forth movement or sound. This environment can be created by waving a finger or light side to side or using a repetitive tone.
      • Written Narrative Exposure – The patient writes about their trauma during counseling sessions. The healthcare provider gives writing assignment instructions and allows them to complete the activity by themselves. The therapist returns at the end of the session to discuss any reactions resulting from the assignment.
      • Narrative Exposure Therapy (NET) – Effective for patients who have experienced trauma from the ongoing war, conflict, and organized violence. With a therapist’s guidance, they talk through stressful life events in lifespan order, putting them together into a story.
      • Brief Eclectic Psychotherapy (BEP) – A therapy where a person practices relaxation skills. They recall details of the traumatic memory and reframe the resulting negative thoughts. Then they write a letter about the event and hold a farewell ritual to leave trauma in the past.

      Tips for Helping Someone with PTSD

           When a family member or friend has PTSD, it affects everyone in their life. It takes a heavy toll, reflected through a loved one’s distance and moodiness. Everyone struggles to understand their less affectionate and more volatile behavior. PTSD symptoms can even lead to job loss, substance abuse, and other problems that affect the whole family.

           A person with PTSD has difficulty controlling their behavior. Their nervous system is “stuck” in a state of constant alert. They feel vulnerable and unsafe, often reliving the traumatic experience over and over. This can lead to anger, irritability, depression, and mistrust; symptoms they can’t just turn off.

           The NIH states that these factors can promote recovery after trauma:

      • Seeking out support from trusted people, particularly friends and family.
      • Finding a traumatic event support group to share experiences.
      • Learning to feel confident in one’s own actions in the face of danger.
      • Developing a positive coping strategy for the damaging event.
      • Building the ability to act and respond effectively, despite feeling fear.

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