Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is a severe condition that may develop after a person experiences one or more traumatic events like sexual assault, serious injury, or the threat of death. This disorder can be found in war veterans, people that have experienced sexual assault, or people involved in any type of violence or natural disaster. Symptoms include recurring flashbacks, avoidance, high levels of anxiety, or numbing of memories from the event.
More than eight million people between the age of 18 and older have PTSD in America. PSTD can last for years if not treated appropriately. People who have experienced a traumatic event may withdraw from their social groups or families. They may also lose interest in the activities or hobbies they previously enjoyed. An individual who experiences a traumatic event may also show disassociation symptoms, where there is a detachment from surrounding or an individual’s physical or emotional state. PTSD is also associated with higher rates of suicide or suicidal ideations, which is a crucial factor to monitor in the months follows a traumatic event.
Flashbacks of the event are common and can include vivid memories, explicit nightmares, or even fear of daily activities. Hyperarousal may manifest in an individual presenting an exaggerated startle response. Arousal is the physiological and psychological state of being awake or reactive to stimuli. Hyperarousal may show increased heart rate, blood pressure, and readiness to respond. For example, if a woman had been sexually assaulted and grabbed by her arm, she may be hyper-aware of people touching her arms.
Other symptoms of PTSD include:
Recurrent, unwanted distressing memories of the traumatic event
Severe emotional distress or physical distress to something that reminds you of the traumatic event
Trying to avoid thinking or talking about the traumatic event
Avoiding places, activities, or people that remind you of the traumatic event
Negative changes in thinking and mood
Negative thoughts about yourself, other people, or the world
Hopelessness about the future
Feeling emotionally numb
Changes in physical and emotional reactions
Being easily startled or frightened
Always being on guard for danger
Irritability, angry outburst, or aggressive behavior
Overwhelming guilt or shame
The best treatments for PTSD involve the help of a trained professional. PTSD is rarely overcome alone and must be addressed to ensure the individual can live a healthy, normal life.
This psychotherapeutic process works to dispute maladaptive thoughts such “as all or nothing” thinking and negative self-fulfilling prophecies. Cognitive restructuring uses thought recording and guided imagery. Therapists can use an individual’s thoughts to understand their environment. After all, our thoughts create our environment, and we must have a safe environment.
People with PTSD may have distortions of reality. Their environment may always feel unsafe as if they have to check behind their back for threats. This feeling also stems from the heightened arousal component. Some people with PTSD may develop social phobias, where they cannot leave the house, or agoraphobia, where there is an excessive fear of situations where they feel helpless.
Therapists use guided imagery to help individuals change their association of positive things with previously associated negative stimuli. For example, a war veteran cannot play pool because of the loud noises when the balls hit each other. The noise triggers a flashback, which causes the veteran to associate playing pool with gunshots. Cognitive restructuring is helpful in this situation for helping the veteran to observe his environment and use guided imagery to replace his flashbacks. Cognitive restructuring is also used in cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) and rational emotive therapy.
Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR) is a form of psychotherapy that involves processing upsetting trauma-related memories, thoughts, and feelings. EMDR asks people to pay attention to either a sound or a back and forth movement while thinking about the trauma memory. This treatment is beneficial for treating the symptoms of PTSD.
Exposure therapy is a type of intervention that helps people face and control their fears by exposing them to the trauma memory they experience in the context of a safe environment. Exposure can use mental imagery, writing, or visits to places or people that remind them of their trauma.
Virtual reality (creating a virtual environment to resemble the traumatic event), also known as VR, can also be used to expose the person to the environment that contains the feared situation. Like other exposure techniques, VR can assist in exposure for treatment for PTSD when the technology is available.
Regardless of the method of exposure, a person is often gradually exposed to the trauma to help them become less sensitive over time. The avoidance of the stimuli associated with the trauma is further enforced by the fear paired with it; this is why exposure therapy is promising as a treatment recommendation.
Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is a severe disorder that requires treatment for complete remission. This disorder can last for months to years after a traumatic event occurred. Daily life can become unbearable as this disorder affects physical, emotional, spiritual, and cognitive processes. If you seek support for yourself or a loved one, SokyaHealth has various treatment options for you. We are a unique, multidisciplinary, private psychiatric and mental health practice. We offer a range of therapies and new age technologies to target the symptoms of PTSD, OCD, anxiety, depression, and other mental health disorders. We provide comprehensive mental health services for Southern California, Oregon, and Alaska regions. Our services treat a wide range of mental health disorders, and if you would like more information, we would be happy to help. Our staff is welcoming and ready to answer any questions you may have. To schedule a free consultation with SokyaHealth, contact us today at 866-932-1767.