PTSD can occur after experiencing or witnessing a terrifying event, such as a natural disaster, an act of violence, or a terrorist attack. PTSD symptoms include disturbing memories of the event, flashbacks, re-living the event, changes in thinking, mood and reactions, and attempts to avoid the people, thoughts and places connected to the experience. About 8% of Americans will have PTSD at some point in their lives (although many more have experienced trauma). About half of those who responded to, survived, or lost loved ones on September 11th have been diagnosed with PTSD. PTSD is a treatable disorder; seeking treatment early can improve recovery.
PTSD can range from being mildly disruptive to severe, and can affect the way a person functions in daily life. Developing the disorder depends upon a range of factors including the traumatic event’s intensity, a person’s proximity to the event, and how much control they had in responding to the event and its aftermath. If an individual was seriously injured and/or believed their life was in danger, there is an increased risk for developing the disorder.
If you think you might have PTSD, consult with your doctor about treatment options. You may want to consider taking this brief screening tool https://adaa.org/screening-posttraumatic-stress-disorder-ptsd. You can print your results and show them to your doctor.
To learn more about PTSD, visit the Department of Veterans Affairs’ National Center for PTSD: https://www.ptsd.va.gov
Treatment for Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)
There are a number of treatment options for PTSD; research has shown that several trauma-focused methods can be most effective:
Eye Movement and Desensitization Reprocessing (EMDR): Promotes recovering from trauma and other disturbing experiences. Healing is achieved through the use of eye movements (or other stimuli) that enable the brain to effectively process distressing memories so that the person no longer feels as reactive or triggered in the present. A theoretical basis of EMDR is that PTSD symptoms result from insufficient integration of sensory, cognitive, and other elements of the traumatic memory. While the original trauma is not “forgotten”, it can be recalled with less distress; healing from the event can then proceed. In addition to trauma, EMDR therapy is applicable for many mental health conditions including anxiety, phobias, grief and loss, depression, eating disorders, sleep disturbance, and addictions.
Cognitive Processing Therapy (CPT): Focuses on changing negative patterns of thinking about the trauma and the associated distress: https://www.ptsd.va.gov/understand_tx/cognitive_processing.asp
Prolonged Exposure (PE): Involves the gradual confrontation of the traumatic memory, including the thoughts, objects, environments and situations that remind the person of the trauma. The goals include shifting the negative thoughts about the trauma and controlling anxiety without having to avoid or escape it https://www.ptsd.va.gov/understand_tx/prolonged_exposure.asp
Medication options include the use of Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors (SSRIs), such as Prozac or Zoloft, and the Serotonin and Norepinephrine Reuptake Inhibitors (SSNIs), such as Pristiq and Effexor. Consult with your doctor to see if medication is right for you.
For more information about treatment methods, visit: https://www.ptsd.va.gov/understand_tx/tx_basics.asp
Exercise and Meditation/Mindfulness are very helpful in managing the distressing experience of living with PTSD. Even moderate amounts of exercise can boost energy and well-being, improve sleep quality and self-esteem, and help alleviate depression symptoms that sometimes occur with PTSD https://www.health.harvard.edu/mind-and-mood/exercise-is-an-all-natural-treatment-to-fight-depression
Meditation and mindfulness approaches can also help by shifting a person’s perception of their experiences. For additional information visit https://www.ptsd.va.gov/gethelp/mindfulness_tx.asp