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Healing from Trauma: Comprehensive Guide to Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder

Often people directly associate Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) with individuals who served in the military. Although it is commonly associated with military combat, PTSD can affect anyone who has experienced severe stress or trauma. PTSD is a mental health condition that arises after witnessing or experiencing a traumatic event.

To be able to recognize symptoms, seek treatment, and provide support to those affected, it is important to gain a deeper understanding of PTSD. This comprehensive guide will delve into the causes, symptoms, treatment options, and coping strategies for PTSD.

What is PTSD?

PTSD is a disorder characterized by the inability to recover following the experience or witnessing a traumatic and terrifying event. An example of this would be the dreadful experience of 9-1-1 on September 11, 2001, in New York. There were thousands of individuals directly and indirectly affected by this event. It is natural to feel fearful during and after a traumatic situation.

Imagine how many of us were terrified watching the event on our television while getting ready for work or taking your children to school. PTSD can disrupt your daily life, relationships, and overall well-being. How were you feeling during the unfolding moments of the event and how did you feel after the two towers collapsed?

PTSD Causes

PTSD can develop following any traumatic event that causes intense fear, helplessness, or horror. How many of you felt helpless and scared while watching the news media on 9-1-1 and wondering ‘What’s going to happen next’?

Common triggers include combat exposure-veterans exposed to danger during war, natural disasters – hurricanes, tornadoes, earthquakes, and floods, serious accidents – car accidents and other severe incidents, violent personal assault – physical, verbal, and sexual assault, robber, and childhood abuse – physical and emotional abuse, and neglect during childhood.

PTSD Symptoms

  • Intrusive Thoughts and Memories
    • Flashbacks and reliving the traumatic incident/event
    • Nightmares about the trauma
    • Severe emotional and psychological distress with possible physical reactions to reminders of the incident
  • Avoidance
    • Intentional avoidance of places, activities, or people that remind an individual of the traumatic event/incident.
    • Refusing to talk about the event or avoiding thoughts and feelings directly associated with it.
  • Negative Shift in Thoughts and Mood
    • Negative thoughts about oneself, others, or the world
    • Hopelessness about the future
    • Memory problems including specific aspects of the traumatic incident.
    • Difficulty maintaining close relationships.
    • Lack of interest in activities once enjoyed.
    • Feeling detached from family and friends
    • Emotional numbness
  • Changes in Physical and Emotional Reactions
    • Easily startled or frightened
    • Always being on guard for danger
    • Self-destructive behavior, such as drinking or driving too fast
    • Trouble sleeping or concentrating.
    • Irritability, angry outbursts, or aggressive behavior
    • Overwhelming guilt or shame

Diagnosing PTSD

A comprehensive assessment by a mental health professional must be completed to properly diagnose PTSD. They are factors to be considered such as: the nature and duration of the presenting symptoms, impact of symptoms on one’s daily functioning, and history of trauma exposure.

For a PTSD diagnosis, an individual’s symptoms must last more than a month and significantly impair one’s ability to function.

PTSD Treatment Options

  • Psychotherapy
    • Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) focuses on changing one’s negative thought patterns.
    • Exposure Therapy helps individuals face and control their fear by directly exposing them to trauma in a safe manner.
    • Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR) involves processing the trauma while focusing on external stimuli.
  • Medications
    • Antidepressants such as selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs).
    • Anti-anxiety Medications to help manage severe anxious symptoms.
    • Prazosin can be used to reduce nightmares.
  • Self-Help and Coping Strategies
    • Support Groups to share experiences with others who have similar experiences and who understand.
    • Physical Activity such as exercising can reduce stress and improve mood.
    • Mindfulness and Relaxation Techniques such as yoga, prayer, and meditation.
    • Healthy Lifestyle Choices to maintain a healthy diet and adequate sleep.

Coping with PTSD

  • Education: Learn about PTSD to gain an understanding of what you are experiencing.
  • Connection: Build a support system consisting of friends, family, and professionals.
  • Routines: Establish a routine to regain a sense of normalcy.
  • Expressive Activities: Participate in activities such as drawing, writing, or playing music to express your emotions.

Supporting a Loved One with PTSD

  • Patience and Understanding: Recognize that recovery takes time.
  • Encourage Professional Mental Health Treatment: Support their journey towards seeking professional help.
  • Listen: Sometimes just being there to listen can be helpful.
  • Avoid Triggers: Help them avoid situations that may trigger their symptoms.
  • Self-Care: Supporting someone with PTSD can be demanding, so make sure to prioritize time for yourself and your well-being.

Get Professional Help

PTSD is a complex disorder. However, with the proper type of treatment and support, individuals can manage their symptoms and live a fulfilling life. Understanding PTSD and recognizing its symptoms are the first steps towards the healing and recovery process. Understanding that there are available treatment options can provide an individual with PTSD symptoms with increased hope that they can feel better. Whether you are experiencing PTSD symptoms yourself or supporting someone who is, it is important to remember that help is available, and recovery is possible.

When you are ready to take that courageous step and reach out for help from a mental health professional, please contact our office at 714-617-5955 or schedule an appointment directly through our website: www.nurturingconnectionscounseling.com. Our therapists are equipped to assist you on your journey so you can begin to lead a more fulfilling and joyous life.

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