Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is a mental health condition, triggered by a traumatic event, that someone has either experienced or witnessed. People who live through traumatic events may have temporary difficulty adjusting and coping, but with the proper treatment and time, they usually get better. When symptoms persist and do not decrease in severity, it can indicate that the trauma has developed into PTSD. Those suffering from this mental health condition may have difficulty moving forward with their lives and have trouble processing their experiences.
Research has revealed that in the United States, PTSD affects approximately 3.5 percent of U.S. adults every year. An estimated one in 11 people will be diagnosed with PTSD in their lifetime. Additionally, women are twice as likely as men to have PTSD. Those with PTSD are also at a much greater risk of developing other mental health conditions. As a result, they may develop anxiety disorders, depression, eating disorders, and substance use disorders. In comparison to those without PTSD, it has been revealed that those with PTSD are about six times more likely to develop depression, and about five times more likely to develop another anxiety disorder.
What are the symptoms of PTSD?
Those suffering from PTSD often have intense, disturbing thoughts and feelings related to their experience. Moreover, these feelings last long after the trauma has ended. The symptoms of PTSD can have a negative impact on one’s mental health, physical health, work, and relationships. Furthermore, individuals struggling to cope may also feel isolated, have trouble maintaining a job, feel unable to trust other people, and may have difficulty expressing or controlling their emotions. Symptoms are generally grouped into four categories: intrusion, avoidance, alterations in cognition and mood, and lastly, alterations in physical and emotional reactions.
Intrusive thoughts can include:
- Repeated, involuntary memories of the traumatic event.
- Distressing dreams or nightmares about the experience.
- Flashbacks – they may be so vivid that the person feels as if they are re-living the traumatic experience before their eyes.
It’s common for those suffering to avoid reminders of the traumatic event. This may include:
- Avoiding people, places, activities, objects, and situations that may trigger distressing memories.
- Trying to avoid remembering, thinking, or talking about the traumatic event.
Alterations in cognition and mood:
Symptoms of negative changes in cognition and mood may often include:
- Inability to remember important aspects of the traumatic event.
- Negative thoughts and feelings about oneself or others.
- Hopelessness about the future.
- Difficulty maintaining close relationships, lack of trust.
- Feeling detached or estranged from family and friends.
- Lack of interest in activities once enjoyed.
- Difficulty experiencing positive emotions, and/or feeling emotionally numb.
- Distorted thoughts about the cause or consequences of the event, which lead to wrongly blaming oneself or others.
- Ongoing fear, horror, anger, guilt, or shame.
Alterations in physical and emotional reactions:
Those struggling with PTSD may experience changes in physical and emotional reactions (often called “arousal symptoms”), these can include:
- Being easily startled or frightened.
- Being irritable, having angry outbursts, or aggressive behavior.
- Engaging in self-destructive or reckless behavior.
- Being overly watchful/on guard of one’s surroundings (constant suspicion).
- Problems with concentration.
- Difficulty sleeping.
- Overwhelming guilt or shame.
Ways to cope with PTSD
There are many ways to cope with the symptoms associated with PTSD. These strategies can be divided into different categories, including social coping strategies, emotional and physical, work, and relationships.
Social coping strategies:
- Educate yourself and others on the condition. Find safe people who can connect with you and support you on your recovery journey.
- Find supportive connections. This can include local communities, support groups, classes, etc. This will help to break down the walls of isolation and serve as a reminder that you are not alone.
- Be sure to spend time with family and friends. It’s common to avoid, withdraw, and retreat from loved ones. Isolation may feel better than being around people, but it’s important to surround yourself with family and friends. For example, go for a walk, talk on the phone, play a card game, get coffee or tea together, or share funny stories.
Emotional and physical coping strategies:
- Practice mindfulness. Find time for meditation, and take time to calm your body and mind. This may feel uncomfortable at first, but remember that there is no pressure. Begin with something as simple as practicing mindfulness for one or two minutes per day. This can help when feeling overwhelmed or anxious.
- Get proper exercise. Take time to enjoy the outdoors, move your body, and get fresh air. This can help to regulate mood and emotions. Exercise can also help our brains to better cope with stress. Find an activity you enjoy, be consistent, and set small goals.
- Participate in counseling and seek help when necessary. Talking with a professional might feel intimidating at first, but it can be extremely beneficial. Counseling can offer a safe, calm space for you to process your feelings and emotions, without fear of judgment.
- Keep a journal. Express your thoughts and emotions by consistently writing in a journal. This can help to process feelings and experiences, decrease flashbacks and nightmares, and decrease intrusive thoughts and memories.
- Ask for flexibility with scheduling or remote work.
- Ask for help in minimizing distractions.
- Take moments to regroup if feeling overwhelmed or anxious.
- Rearrange your workspace in a way that helps you to feel safe.
- Talk with your HR department about possible Employee Assistance Programs (EAP).
- Be honest about your needs. Help your loved ones understand what you are experiencing. Let them know how they can be of help and ask them to be patient with you.
- Set aside time to spend with loved ones. Avoid moving away from people, shutting down, and staying hidden. Practice interacting and reconnecting with the people you care about.
Are you or a loved one struggling with PTSD? At Feinberg Consulting, our team of highly trained professionals is here to help guide you on your path to healing and recovery. Contact us today to learn more at 877.538.5425.