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In this blog post, we will be looking at PTSD and the effects thereof. In short, PTSD stands for Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder. But what does all of that mean and how does PTSD affect an individual?
Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder is a mental condition that is triggered by experiencing a traumatic event. It is more commonly known to influence soldiers, however, that is not the only case. Soldiers are not the only ones who suffer from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder after the war. Any person that has experienced or witnessed a traumatic event could have difficulty adjusting and coping with those traumatic events. But with time and good self-care, patients usually get better.
If these symptoms get worse, last for a couple of months or even years, they interfere with your day-to-day functioning. Patients with PTSD have intense, disturbing thoughts and feelings related to their experience that lasts for a long period of time even when the traumatic event has ended. Usually, they relive traumatic experiences through flashbacks or nightmares and may experience emotions such as sadness, fear or anger in addition to feeling detached from other people.
People with PTSD may avoid situations or people that remind them of the traumatic event, and they may have strong negative reactions to something as ordinary as sudden loud noise or an accidental touch. A diagnosis of PTSD requires exposure to an upsetting traumatic event. However, exposure could be indirect rather than first hand. For example, PTSD could occur in individuals learning about the violent death of a close family. It can also occur as a result of repeated exposure to horrible details of trauma such as soldiers exposed to numerous violent deaths on the battlefield.
Statistics at a glance
- 70% of adult’s experience at least one traumatic event during their lifetime
- 20% of people experiencing a traumatic event during their lifetime will develop PTSD
- About 8 million people have PTSD in a given year
- 1 in 13 people will develop PTSD during their lifetime
Symptoms and Diagnosis
The symptoms of PTSD can be broken down into 4 main categories – Specific symptoms can vary in severity.Intrusive thoughts
This includes repeated or unwanted memories, distressing dreams or flashbacks of the traumatic events. Flashbacks may be so vivid that patients feel like they are re-living those events. .Avoiding reminders
Avoiding reminders of traumatic events may include avoiding people, places, activities and situations that bring on distressing memories. Patients may avoid thinking or remembering the traumatic event, as well as talking about what happened or how they feel about it. .Negative thoughts and feelings
These may include distorted beliefs about oneself or others. Patients also show less interest in activities they previously enjoyed or feeling detached or estranged from others. .
Changes in physical and emotional reactions
Symptoms of changes in physical and emotional reactions (also called arousal symptoms) may include: .
- Being easily startled or frightened
- Always being on guard for danger
- Self-destructive behaviour, such as drinking too much or driving too fast
- Trouble sleeping
- Trouble concentrating
- Irritability, angry outbursts or aggressive behaviour
- Overwhelming guilt or shame
Many people experience these symptoms described above, after being exposed to traumatic events. People are diagnosed if the symptoms last more than a couple of months or even years. Many of these symptoms occur after three months of the trauma, but other symptoms may appear later. For patients dealing with PTSD, the symptoms cause significant distress or cause functioning problems. PTSD often occurs with other related conditions, such as depression, substance use, memory problems and other physical and mental health problems. .
What are the treatments for PTSD?
When you are suffering from PTSD, you might feel like you’ll never get your life back. But PTSD can be treated. Short- and long-term psychotherapy and medications can work very well. Often, the two kinds of treatment are more effective together. It is, however, important to know that not everyone who experiences a traumatic event develops PTSD. For some the symptoms of PTSD fades over time, other people will get better with the help of friends and family but many people do require help from a professional. It is important to remember that trauma may lead to severe distress. That distress is not the individual’s fault, and PTSD is treatable. The earlier a person gets treatment, the better the likely outcome. .
The three main goals of PTSD
- To improve your symptoms
- To teach you coping mechanisms
- To restore your self-esteem
Most PTSD therapies fall under the same umbrella of cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT). The idea is to change the thought patterns that are disturbing your life. This might happen through talking about your trauma or concentrating on where your fears come from. .
The Link between PTSD and Co-Occurring Disorders
Many mental health disorders can occur with PTSD due to significant changes in the brain functioning, following a traumatic event that leads to PTSD. Someone struggling with PTSD may experience depression, anxiety or substance use disorders. Let us break down each sub-category and briefly discuss each one on its own. .
PTSD and Depression
Depression is a common mental health concern, with approximately 1 in 10 people having some form of depressive disorder every year. Depression is more common among people who experience traumatic events. PTSD and depression frequently co-occur, as people with PTSD are 3 to 5 times more likely to have a depressive disorder. .
PTSD and Anxiety
Though now considered a separate type of disorder, PTSD was previously categorized as an anxiety disorder. This association was made because PTSD and anxiety disorders share some symptoms, many of which can be impairing sleep and other essential biological functions. Someone with PTSD-related anxiety may also constantly feel on edge and be easily startled. Additionally, anxiety caused by PTSD can make it difficult to concentrate or increase agitation. .
PTSD and Substance Abuse
PTSD and substance abuse often co-occur. One study estimates that 46.4 percent of people with PTSD also meet the criteria for a substance use disorder. PTSD and alcohol use disorders maybe even more closely related due to the legality of alcohol, which makes it more easily accessible than other substances. A study found that women with PTSD were 2.48 times more likely to misuse alcohol, while men with PTSD were 2.06 times more likely. .
PTSD and adjustment disorders
Adjustment disorders occur when the emotional or behavioural symptoms a patient experience in response to the stressor are generally more intense than what would be reasonably expected for the type of event that occurred. The stressor could be a single event or more than one with a cumulative effect. These stressors could affect a single individual or an entire family and it is typically treated with psychotherapy.
When to seek medical attention
If left untreated PTSD can make life’s day to day activities significantly more difficult. Any person that has experienced or witnessed a traumatic event could have difficulty adjusting and coping with those traumatic events. At first, it might seem like a daunting task to ask someone for help, maybe you don’t want people to know that you are suffering from PTSD for the fear of being judged or treated differently. If you're experiencing any of the problems listed above, or if you think you may struggle with PTSD, get help. If you're hiding your PTSD from loved ones, try to find a person you trust to talk to about what's going on. .
At ZwavelStream clinic, you will be met by a team of warm, dedicated and experienced professionals. We strive to provide our patients with a mixed therapeutic model of psychiatric care so that you can discover a renewed sense of wellness that extends beyond mental health. .
Zwavelstream Clinic is set in the Bronberg, with lush vegetation, manicured gardens, as well as spacious and tastefully furnished rooms. Our mental health clinic was inspired by the desire to provide a psychiatric unit in an environment that “de-institutionalizes and de-stigmatizes” mental health hospitals .
There’s no shame in seeking treatment to improve your mental health. In fact, it’s an act of great courage to take that first step and reach out. At ZwavelStream Clinic we provide a safe space for those looking for just this kind of support and guidance. So if you recognize yourself or someone you love may need help, please contact us.