Post-traumatic stress disorder is a debilitating psychological condition caused after witnessing or being involved in a major traumatic event. The event may be childhood abuse, rape, war, a terrorist act, death of a loved one, a natural disaster, or a catastrophic accident. But regardless of the cause, the development of post traumatic stress disorder often leads to feelings of extreme fear, helplessness, or horror. After the traumatic event, many people experience nightmares, daytime memories of the event, difficulty sleeping, numbness of emotions, or sometimes even personality changes. For many people, these symptoms stop within a month. Post traumatic stress disorder occurs when these symptoms continue for months or years.
Symptoms of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder
The symptoms of post traumatic stress disorder usually occur within three months of the traumatic event, although sometimes the disorder does not develop until several years after the initial trauma. Once the symptoms start, they may fade away again within one to six months. However, the symptoms may continue for much longer, and in some cases, the problem may become chronic.
On of the most troubling symptoms of post traumatic stress disorder is the development of flashbacks that cause the survivor to relive a traumatic event. Flashbacks can be triggered by sounds, smells, feelings, or images. During a flashback, the sufferer may completely lose touch with reality, believing that the traumatic event is occurring all over again. Flashbacks can last for minutes or even hours.
People who suffer from post traumatic stress disorder also often experience avoidance and arousal symptoms. Avoidance symptoms include an inability to remember the event, a conscious desire to avoid discussing the event, an inability to feel or express emotions, or an impending sense of doom. Arousal symptoms involve difficulty concentrating, over active startle reactions, moodiness, tendency towards violence, ad memory problems.
Other common symptoms of post traumatic stress disorder include hyper alertness, fear and anxiety, nightmares, anger and irritability, guilt, depression, increased substance abuse, pessimistic outlook, and decreased sexual activity.
In addition to the above symptoms, children with post traumatic stress disorder may experience learning disabilities and memory or attention problems. They may also become more dependent, anxious, or even self-abusing.
Diagnosing Post Traumatic Stress Disorder
The diagnosis of post traumatic stress disorder involves the presence avoidance and arousal symptoms as well as at least one of the following intrusive symptoms:
2. Sleep Disorders: Difficulty sleeping, nightmares, night terrors
3. Intense anxiety triggered by events associated with the trauma
Treatment of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder
Emergency Care: For those who have just been exposed to a traumatic event, immediate intervention is necessary to ensure their mental and physical survival. Protection from further danger, treatment of physical injuries, food, shelter, water, clothing, and reconnection with loved ones or an immediate social network can help survivors recover from a traumatic event.
Relaxation Techniques: Learn how to relax by practicing meditation and breathing techniques. This can help you manage flashbacks and clear the mind of disturbing images associated with post traumatic stress disorder.
Get Connected: Although the tendency may be to withdraw, it is important to stay connected with friends and family members as you recover from post traumatic stress disorder. Also, consider joining a support group where you can meet other people who have been involved in traumatic experiences and learn new methods for handling your condition.
Drama Therapy: Re-enacting the event through drama therapy may be an effective way for survivors of post traumatic stress disorders to work through the emotions and triggers of the traumatic event.
Therapy: There are several types of therapy that may be useful in the treatment of post traumatic stress disorder.
Cognitive Therapy: This method focuses on the repetitive review of traumatic events and identification of negative behaviors and thoughts. In theory, cognitive therapy allows sufferers to change their reactions to stresses and relieve the symptoms of stress.
Group Therapy: Group therapy allows survivors of a traumatic event such as war or childhood abuse to reconnect with a social network. It may be helpful in decreasing psychological distress, depression, and anxiety among post traumatic stress disorder sufferers.
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Coping With Post Traumatic Stress Disorder
For many survivors of a traumatic event, the symptoms of post traumatic stress disorder will never completely go away. They will diminish, allowing the survivor to resume daily activities and enjoy life again, but a trigger of the traumatic event may cause some of the symptoms to reoccur. Recovery may lead to fewer reactions and reactions that are less intense. But it is important for sufferers of post traumatic stress disorder to learn how to cope with these reactions so that they can get past more quickly and effectively. Coping methods include talking about the traumatic event and finding ways to distract yourself from stressful triggers.
Talk It Out: Strengthen your social network of close family and friends so that you will have people to turn to if you feel stress coming on. Also, connect with other survivors that can empathize and offer suggestions for help.
Distraction: Learn what activities can distract you from stress if you know a situation is likely to trigger a stressful response.
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