Know the basics
What is post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)?
Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) refers to a mental condition where you experience a panic episode triggered by a past experience. Going through a traumatic event can be devastating to many. But some people develop post-traumatic stress disorder after being in a painful or shocking event such as being in an accident or a war. You can find yourself thinking about the traumatic event all the time and it can affect your life. It difficult to adjust and cope to changes for a while but there are ways to make you feel better.
How common is post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)?
PTSD is common. It commonly affects more females than males. This is because most women are more sensitive to changes than men, thus, they experience more intense emotions. It can affect patients at any age, even in children. It can be managed by reducing your risk factors. Please discuss with your doctor for further information.
Know the symptoms
What are the symptoms of post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)?
The common signs and symptoms of PTSD are:
- You cannot stop thinking about the specific event that caused PTSD. When you have PTSD, you can repeatedly relive the trauma experience through flashbacks, hallucinations, and nightmares.
- You shy away from social life. In fear that you will have a panic episode, you wish not to meet others, or to avoid people, places, thoughts, or situations that may remind you of the trauma. The result of avoidance are feelings of detachment and isolation from family and friends, as well as a loss of interest in activities that you used to love.
- You will experience emotions more intensely than before. This means you might be more irritated or more depressed, or go through mood swing often.
- You might have problems relating to others, including feeling or showing affection, or feeling very jumpy or easily startled.
- You might have difficulty falling or staying asleep, difficulty concentrating.
- Physically, you might experience symptoms such as increased blood pressure and heart rate, rapid breathing, muscle tension, nausea, and diarrhea.
There may be some signs or symptoms not listed above. If you have any concerns about a symptom, please consult your doctor.
When should I see my doctor?
Many people with mental conditions feel ashamed and want to delay going to the doctor. However, you should remember that PTSD is curable. The sooner you seek treatment, the sooner your PTSD will be treated. You should contact your doctor if you have any of the following:
- If you have disturbing thoughts and feelings about a traumatic event for more than a month;
- If your negative thoughts and feelings are severe;
- If you are having trouble getting your life back under control;
- If you suppose you may hurt yourself or attempt suicide.
Know the causes
What causes post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)?
The cause of PTSD is still unknown. But it is belived that the fact of that you go through, see or learn about an event involving actual or threatened death, serious injury or sexual violation cause your PTSD.
On the other hand, you can have PTSD by a complex mix of:
- You inherit mental health risks like an increased risk of anxiety and depression;
- You experience the amount and severity of trauma since early childhood;
- You inherit aspects of your personality, often called your temperament;
- The way your brain controls the chemicals and hormones your body releases in response to stress.
Know the risk factors
What increases my risk for post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)?
There are many risk factors for PTSD, especially if they have been through a difficult experience. However, some factors may make you more likely to develop PTSD after a traumatic event, such as:
- Experiencing intense or long-lasting trauma;
- Having experienced other trauma earlier in life, including childhood abuse or neglect;
- Having a job that increases your risk of being exposed to traumatic events, such as military personnel and first responders;
- Having other mental health problems, such as anxiety or depression;
- Lacking a good support system of family and friends;
- Having biological (blood) relatives with mental health problems, including PTSD or depression.
We all face stressful time in our lives, but some are more likely to lead to PTSD. The most common events leading to the development of PTSD include:
- Combat exposure;
- Childhood neglect and physical abuse;
- Sexual assault;
- Physical attack;
- Being threatened with a weapon.
Many other traumatic events also can lead to PTSD, such as being in a fire accident, natural disaster, mugging, robbery, car accident, plane crash, torture, kidnapping, life-threatening medical diagnosis, terrorist attack, and other extreme or life-threatening events.
Understand the diagnosis & treatment
How is post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) diagnosed?
PTSD is not diagnosed until at least one month has passed since the time a traumatic event has occurred. If during one month after an event, you experience the symptoms mentioned above, you should see your doctor. If symptoms of PTSD are present, the doctor will begin an evaluation by performing a complete medical history and physical exam. Although there are no lab tests to specifically diagnose PTSD, the doctor may use various tests to rule out physical illness as the cause of the symptoms.
If no physical illness is found, you may be referred to a psychiatrist, psychologist, or other mental health professional who is specially trained to diagnose and treat mental illnesses. Psychiatrists and psychologists use specially designed interview and assessment tools to evaluate a person for an anxiety disorder. The doctor bases his or her diagnosis of PTSD on reported symptoms, including any problems with functioning caused by the symptoms. The doctor then determines if the symptoms and degree of dysfunction indicate PTSD. PTSD is diagnosed if the person has symptoms of PTSD that last for more than one month.
How is post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) treated?
Treating your PTSD means that you need to take back the control over your life. The very first treatment is psychotherapy, which often used in a combination with medication. When you combine these treatments, your symptoms can be improved. Besides, you need to learn skills to address your symptoms and help you feel better about yourself. Your doctor would teach you ways to cope if any symptoms arise again. Moreover, these treatments will help to treat problems related to traumatic experience, such as depression, anxiety, or misuse of alcohol or drugs occur.
There are a number of psychology methods designed to help you find the problem and address it properly, such as cognitive therapy, exposure therapy, and eye movement desensitization.
Cognitive therapy helps you recognize what keeps you stuck in that memory. Exposure therapy helps you safely face what you find frightening so that you can learn to cope with it effectively. And eye movement desensitization and reprocessing with a series of guided eye movements is helpful for you process traumatic memories and changing how you react to traumatic memories.
You might need some medications to treat symptoms of PTSD. They can be antidepressants for helping symptoms of depression and anxiety; anti-anxiety medications to improve feelings of anxiety and stress; and prazosin when your symptoms involve insomnia or recurrent nightmares.
Lifestyle changes & home remedies
What are some lifestyle changes or home remedies that can help me manage post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)?
The following lifestyles and home remedies might help you cope with PTSD:
- Follow your treatment plan and be patient;
- Learn about PTSD. Doing this can help you understand what you are feeling, and then you can prepare strategies to help you respond effectively;
- Get enough rest, eat a healthy diet, exercise and take time to relax;
- Avoid caffeine and nicotine, which can worsen anxiety;
- Do not abuse alcohol or drugs to numb your feelings, which can cause more problems down the road and prevent real healing.
Hello Health Group does not provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.
Post traumatic Stress Disorder. http://www.webmd.com/mental-health/post-traumatic-stress-disorder. Accessed July 18, 2016.
Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). http://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/post-traumatic-stress-disorder/basics/definition/con-20022540. Accessed July 18, 2016.
Review Date: May 30, 2016 | Last Modified: January 4, 2017