Post Traumatic Stress Disorder
Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) is often associated with military service. Those who serve in the armed forces often have experiences that are difficult for them to come to terms with. Frequently, for example, troops returning from combat duty find that they have great difficulty putting those experiences behind them.
But those who serve in the military are not the only people who may battle PTSD. The disorder also can affect individuals who have endured any kind of traumatic experience. Those experiences might include (but are certainly not limited to):
- Physical, verbal, or emotional abuse—whether experienced as a child or an adult
- Serious accidents of any kind
- Rape or threat of sexual violence
- Witnessing an act of terrorism or violence—including events like school shootings
- Experiencing the effects of a natural or manmade disaster
These kinds of experiences can leave a seemingly indelible impression in the mind, and the aftereffects can be quite severe and disruptive—both for the person who experiences those effects and the people around them.
So what are the symptoms of PTSD? Let’s take a closer look.
Traumatic Events Can Linger in the Mind
Many of the symptoms of PTSD can be grouped together under the heading of “intrusion.” That means the aspects of the traumatic experience seem to frequently invade a person’s daily life. These intrusions might take a variety of forms:
- Disturbing dreams related to the traumatic event
- Frequent memories of the event that seem impossible to avoid
- Vivid flashbacks that can cause a person to feel as though they are actually reliving the traumatic event or witnessing it in the present moment
Traumatic Events Can Lead to Avoidance
Another group of PTSD symptoms might be called avoidance symptoms. The name gives a good sense of what these might include:
- A firm and ongoing unwillingness to talk about the traumatic experience or the way they felt at the time or feel now
- A deep desire to avoid thinking about or remembering the event—a desire often upended by the intrusion symptoms listed above
- An insistence on avoiding anything or anyone that might call the traumatic event to mind—including avoiding the specific places or activities associated with the trauma
Traumatic Events Can Change Reactions
A third collection of symptoms can be categorized as changes to the ways in which a person with PTSD reacts in various situations. Symptoms related to reactivity can include:
- Difficult concentrating due to ongoing worry
- Difficult sleeping due to intrusive thoughts and worry
- A tendency to be easily startled
- A desire to keep watch over their surroundings so they can spot anything that might be a danger
- Increased likelihood of self-destructive, reckless behavior that can take a variety of forms ranging from risky sexual behavior to poor financial decisions
- A propensity for angry outbursts and/or unexplained irritability
Traumatic Events Can Impact Thoughts & Feelings
The last category of PTSD symptoms involves significant impacts to cognition, mood, and more. These issues can include:
- Feeling disconnected from—or distrustful of—other people
- An inability to enjoy activities that were once pleasurable
- A marked inability to experience emotions like happiness or to take satisfaction in anything
- A propensity to blame themselves for the traumatic event—even when they clearly were not at fault—leading to feelings of guilt, fear, angry, and/or shame
- Distorted or missing memories related to the traumatic event
Treatment for Post Traumatic Stress Disorder
There are two major approaches to treating PTSD—therapy and medications—and they are generally considered most effective when used in combination.
Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR) is among the therapy options for addressing PTSD. Unlike some of the other therapeutic approaches, EMDR often does not involve telling your therapist about the trauma you experienced. Instead of speaking about it out loud, you focus on it mentally while you watch and/or listen to movements and/or sounds. Over about three months of weekly sessions, this technique helps to reframe the way your body and brain react when confronted with memories of the trauma.
The FDA has approved two medications for treating PTSD. Sertraline (Zoloft) and paroxetine (Paxil), but your doctor may prescribe different antidepressants (including fluoxetine or venlafaxine—Prozac or Effexor) or other medications depending on your individual situation and how you respond to any given medication.
Treatment Is Recommended
The most important thing to note here is that PTSD can be—indeed, should be—treated. The negative impacts of the disorder can make daily life extremely difficult. Worse, the feelings of guilt that often characterize the disorder can make a person feel as though they don’t deserve to feel better and are unworthy of help. But that’s the disorder—not reality.
The reality is that many people have experienced traumas that were totally beyond their control and now threaten their ability to function. Every single person in that situation needs and deserves help so that they can reclaim their lives and leave their pasts in the past.
Peak View Behavioral Health Can Help With PTSD
If you are struggling to put a traumatic experience behind you, it might feel as though the task is impossible. But it isn’t.
At Peak View Behavioral Health, we have the expertise and the compassion necessary to help you move past your trauma so that you can focus on your present and future rather than your past.
In addition to providing therapeutic options for dealing with PTSD, we can also help you address a co-occurring substance use disorder. Drug and alcohol use are frequently seen among those who struggle with PTSD. This kind of “self-medication”—a dangerous and generally ineffective way to manage PTSD’s symptoms—eventually becomes a problem in its own right. If that’s the situation in which you find yourself, we can provide detoxification and rehabilitation so that you can reclaim your sobriety.