Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is a psychiatric condition that is triggered by a terrifying event in one’s life, either via experiencing or witnessing it. Individuals who are at a higher risk for developing PTSD include emergency health care workers, medical students, soldiers, victims of natural disasters, terrorist attacks, rape, kidnapping, sexual or physical abuse, childhood neglect as well as experiencing the sudden death of a loved one. After a traumatic experience, it is expected for a person to feel frightened, anxious, or disconnected from society, however PTSD may develop if these rigid feelings do not gradually fade away, or start interfering with one’s activities of daily living.
PTSD symptoms may develop within months to years after a traumatic event, and are typically grouped into four distinct types: intrusive memories, avoidance, negative changes in thinking and mood, as well as changes in emotional reactions. Symptoms of intrusive memories may include distressing flashbacks or upsetting dreams of a traumatic event, as well as severe emotional distress or physical reactions to something that reminds a person of the event. Symptoms of avoidance may include avoiding places, activities or people that remind a person of a particular traumatic event. Symptoms of negative changes in thinking and mood may consist of an inability to experience positive emotions, lack of interest in previously enjoyable activities, memory glitches or difficulties in maintaining close relationships. Symptoms of changes in emotional reactions could result in trouble sleeping or concentrating, aggressive behaviour, feelings of overwhelming guilt, as well as being easily startled and constantly on guard for danger.
PTSD can leave an individual feeling powerless and vulnerable however, it is important for one to realize that they are not helpless. Getting effective treatment after PTSD symptoms develop can be critical to reduce symptoms and improve overall function. The first self-help tip would be to engage in any rhythmic exercise routine that helps to release endorphins and unwind the nervous system. Secondly, mindful breathing and social interaction with close family or friends can help in alleviating anxiety. Moreover, resorting to hobbies can turn out to be a great way to reclaim one’s sense of power, whilst joining an online PTSD support group can help an individual feel less isolated and also provide invaluable information on coping with symptoms as well as working towards recovery.
The symptoms of PTSD can be excruciating on one’s body so it is vitally important to take care of oneself and develop healthy lifestyle habits. When struggling with difficult emotions and traumatic memories, one may be tempted to indulge in alcohol or drugs, however substance abuse worsens many symptoms of PTSD, interferes with treatment as well as building sound relationships. Types of professional treatment for PTSD include trauma-focused cognitive behavioural therapy, as well as prescribed medications to relieve secondary symptoms of depression or anxiety if the need arises.