Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD): More to Life

There are some situations in life that are memorable, and some not so much. While some of us are able to push them pass us and continue moving on with our lives, there are some who are stuck in the torturous cycle of trauma and will be affected with similar situations. This is commonly referred to Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD).

What is PTSD?

When encountered with a traumatic experience, the usual feelings towards it would be frightened, anxious, sad and to be disconnected with the people around us. However, if the upset doesn’t fade, you are suffering from what they call PTSD.

It is a mental health condition and it can develop when exposed to any event that involved the actual or possible threat of death, violence or serious injury. People who are diagnosed with PTSD constantly experience flashbacks, anxiety, nightmares, and repetitive, intrusive thoughts about the traumatic event they experienced or witnessed.

One is diagnosed with PTSD according to the different types of exposure to traumatic situations. The exposures may include the following:

  • You directly experienced the traumatic event
  • You witnessed in person, the traumatic event occurring to others
  • You learned that someone close to you have experienced or was threatened by the traumatic event
  • You are repeatedly exposed to graphic details of traumatic events (for example, being the first responder to the scene)

What causes PTSD?

PTSD is commonly associated with battle-scarred solders (those involved in military combat), or rape. Nonetheless, any series of events that causes one to feel unpredictable and uncontrollable can trigger PTSD – mainly the overwhelming ones that case feelings of hopelessness & helplessness, which leaves you emotionally shattered.

When we are encountered with a terrifying situation, our nervous system reacts with the fight-or-flight response. This causes your heart to pound faster, your blood pressure will rise and tightening of your muscles happen. All these will lead to an increase of strength and reaction speed for your next course of action.

Once the body knows that the danger has passed, your nervous system will calm the body down by lowering your heart rate and blood pressure, thus winding them back down to their normal states.

So how does PTSD come about? PTSD occurs when you experience too much stress in the traumatising situation. Even though the danger has passed, your nervous system is “stuck” in the same moment and is unable to return to its normal state of balance; causing you to not able to move on. To recover from PTSD, it involves helping your nervous system to become “unstuck” so you can heal and move on from the trauma.

Main Symptoms of PTSD

Everyone experiences PTSD differently and tend to have different triggers. How PTSD comes about is how one experiences the traumas. However, there are four main types of symptoms.

  1. Re-experiencing of events: This happensthrough intrusive memories, flashbacks, nightmares, or intense mental or physical reactions when reminded of the trauma.
  2. Negative thoughts and mood changes: This includes feeling distanced/ detached, alienated and alone, feeling guilt, shame, self-blame, mistrust and betrayal, having difficulty in concentrating or remembering, experiencing depression, helplessness and hopelessness, etc.
  3. Numbing and Avoiding: One might feel a loss of interest in activities and life in general, feeling emotionally numb, avoiding anything that acts as a reminder of the trauma (be it the places or people related), being unable to remember aspects of the ordeal.
  4. Hyperarousal: This term indicates that one’s highs are higher and their lows are lower – where the person experiences thoughts, reactions and feelings that are more intense than the usual. They will feel jumpy or easily startled and be on hypervigilance (on constant “red alert”), have sudden angry outbursts and being aggressive, having nightmares, insomnia or other sleep problems because of heightened brain thoughts, irritability, and self-destructive or reckless behaviour.

If the problems you experience after this exposure continue for more than a month and cause significant problems in your ability to function, both in social and work settings while negatively impacting your relationships, you may have PTSD.

PTSD in Children
Children with PTSD are mostly those who have experienced the trauma directly or could witness it happening to someone else. The symptoms of PTSD can differ from those of adults. These include:

  • Fear of being separated from their parent.
  • Sleep problems and nightmares.
  • Losing previously-acquired skills (such as toilet training).
  • Constant feeling of sombre: aspects of the trauma are repeated.
  • Irritability and aggression.
  • Acting out the trauma through play, stories, or drawings.
  • New phobias and anxieties that seem unrelated to the trauma.
  • Aches and pains with no apparent cause.

Ways to Cope With Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)

PTSD directly affects the people who personally experience the traumatic event and also those who witness the event first hand. Nevertheless, it also affects those who play a role in solving it as well, and these include emergency response workers or law enforcement officers. It can also affect friends and family members who have gone through the same traumatic event.

It does not matter what was the cause of the PTSD, but what you do in overcoming it. It is not an easy task and you do not fully heal overnight, but by reaching out for support and seeking the necessary treatment, you are able to learn to manage your symptoms as well as assist others in helping you move on with your life.

Here are some of the ways you can do with your journey of healing:

  1. Challenge your sense of helplessness: During this difficult times, you will constantly feel like you are not enough and there is nothing going right. But, it is vital to continue to remind yourself that you have other unique strengths and skills. Take small positive actions to reclaim your sense of power and these mainly include helping others. Volunteer to help an organisation or a friend, donate blood or to the charity of your choice.
  2. Move your Muscles: Exercising has always prove to be a great way to refresh while improving your mood and outlook. For those with PTSD, focusing your body on the way it feels when it is moving can help your nervous system become “unstuck” – slowly and steadily. Join in group workout activities like rock-climbing, samba or try out something new in your routine.
  3. Maintain a Healthy Lifestyle: Take this time to focus on yourself and relax through the days like meditation, deep breathing, massages or yoga. Stay away from alcohol and drugs to minimise the symptoms of PTSD and eat healthily. This also includes getting a good night’s sleep.
  4. Psychotherapy: If all else doesn’t work for you, it’s important to seek professional help right away for PTSD. There are several types of psychotherapy, or also called talk therapy used to treat children and adults with PTSD. Keep in mind that PTSD is not a sign of weakness and the only way to overcome it with acceptance with what happened in the past. This process is much easier with the guidance and support of an experienced therapist or doctor.

WhatsDoc has a list of certified psychotherapists that have experience in managing PTSD symptoms. Let us be part of your healing journey from the comforts of your own home.

References:

https://pyramidfbh.com/what-are-the-stages-of-ptsd/

https://www.mind.org.uk/information-support/types-of-mental-health-problems/post-traumatic-stress-disorder-ptsd-and-complex-ptsd/self-care/

https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/319824

https://www.verywellmind.com/coping-with-ptsd-2797536

https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/post-traumatic-stress-disorder/diagnosis-treatment/drc-20355973

Images:
Taken from https://onlinefirstaid.com/post-traumatic-stress-disorder/