Tuesday, December 17, 2013

PTSD. What is it?

You feel on edge most of the time, unable to truly relax. The nightmares keep coming back. Sudden noises make you jump. You’re staying at home more and more. Could you have PTSD?

If you have experienced severe trauma or a life-threatening event, you may develop symptoms of posttraumatic stress, commonly known as posttraumatic stress disorder, PTSD, shell shock, or combat stress. Maybe you felt like your life or the lives of others were in danger, or that you had no control over what was happening. You may have witnessed people being injured or dying, or you may have been physically harmed yourself. In some cases, perhaps you made it through a combat event where the soldiers around you were killed but you somehow survived.

“Even though I knew they were just fireworks on the 4th of July, to me they still sounded like incoming mortars. It took me right back to my deployment…”

Some of the most common symptoms of PTSD include recurring memories or nightmares of the event(s), sleeplessness, loss of interest, or feeling numb, anger and irritability, but there are many ways PTSD can impact your everyday life.

Sometimes these symptoms don’t surface for months or years after the event or returning from deployment. They may also come and go. If these problems won’t go away or are getting worse—or you feel like they are disrupting your daily life—you may have PTSD.

Some factors can increase the likelihood of a traumatic event leading to PTSD, such as: 

The intensity of the trauma

Being hurt or losing a loved one

Being physically close to the traumatic event

Feeling you were not in control

Having a lack of support after the event

What are the signs of PTSD?

“Driving down the roads in my home town, I found myself noticing every piece of debris, avoiding every pothole.”

A wide variety of symptoms may be signs you are experiencing PTSD:

Feeling upset by things that remind you of what happened

Having nightmares, vivid memories, or flashbacks of the event that make you feel like it's happening all over again

Feeling emotionally cut off from others

Feeling numb or losing interest in things you used to care about


Thinking that you are always in danger

Feeling anxious, jittery or irritated

Experiencing a sense of panic that something bad is about to happen

Having difficulty sleeping

Having trouble keeping your mind focused on one thing

Having a hard time relating to and getting along with your spouse, family or friends

“When stress brought on flashbacks, I dealt with them by drinking them away. I considered it recreational drinking, but really I was self-medicating.”

It’s not just the symptoms of PTSD but also how you may react to them that can disrupt your life. You may:

Frequently avoid places or things that remind you of what happened

Consistent drinking or use of drugs to numb your feelings

Consider harming yourself or others

Start working all the time to occupy your time

Pull away from people and become isolated

What is the treatment for PTSD?

If you have PTSD, it doesn’t mean you just have to live with it. In recent years, researchers from around the world have dramatically increased our understanding of what causes PTSD and how to treat it. Hundreds of thousands of Veterans have gotten treatment for PTSD—and treatment works.  

“In therapy I learned how to respond differently to the thoughts that used to get stuck in my head.”

Two types of treatment have been shown to be effective for treating PTSD: counseling and medication. Professional counseling can help you understand your thoughts and discover ways to cope with your feelings. Medications, called selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors, are used to help you feel less worried or sad.

In just a few months, these treatments can produce positive and meaningful changes in symptoms and quality of life. They can help you understand and change how you think about your trauma—and change how you react to stressful memories.

You may need to work with your doctor or counselor and try different types of treatment before finding the one that’s best for dealing with your PTSD symptoms.

Talking to others about the combat situation they survived is usually difficult for most veterans but it would be healthy to talk to your family and loved ones about PTSD and it's effects on you. This could also open the door to let them know about the traumatic events you suffered and allow them to support you in coping with the negative aspects of PTSD. You may also find other veterans in your area to talk to. Perhaps together you can support one another.

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