What is PTSD?


PTSD is categorized as an anxiety disorder that is a result of people suffering some sort of trauma. The disorder may be difficult to diagnose because traumas affect everyone differently and there is often a fine line between normal coping behavior and that displayed by those with PTSD. Loved ones of those who have experienced traumas may also get PTSD; this disorder does not discriminate based on age or sex. Nearly 3.6% of all Americans have PTSD, and about 7.8 million Americans will have PTSD over the course of their lifetimes.

What are the Symptoms?

People often relive the trauma through which they have suffered in the form of flashbacks, hallucinations, and nightmares. Many people without PTSD who experience trauma have nightmares and negative memories of the trauma. However, those with PTSD experience these symptoms after a normal period of time has elapsed. It's a continued re-living of the traumatic events that hinder their lives in a severe fashion. PTSD victims may also experience extreme distress when situations or people remind them of the trauma they experienced.

PTSD can also cause people to withdraw and detach themselves from family and friends. In trying to distance him or herself from the memories of the trauma, they often isolate themselves and causing others pain. They may alter their routines and no longer participate in activities that once gave them enjoyment.

Other symptoms include heightened emotional anxiety and arousal. Those with PTSD may startle or scare more easily than they once did; they may have trouble sleeping and may experience shame or survivor's guilt. Increased physical symptoms of arousal such as muscle tension, fast breathing, and diarrhea may also manifest themselves due to heightened anxiety.

What are the Causes?

The most typical cause is a severe trauma that mentally disturbs the victim. War is a common culprit, as are rape, natural disasters, and abusive relationships. Those with loved ones who experienced traumas can also develop PTSD, and children who are abused may develop PTSD in adulthood. Genetics may also be involved; having immediate family members with PTSD may increase a person's risk of having the anxiety disorder. Everyone handles trauma differently, so ascertaining a specific cause or predicting who will get PTSD is not always successful.

What are the Treatment Options?

As with many anxiety disorders, the most successful treatments often involve both medication and psychotherapy. Antidepressants and mood stabilizers are the most popular medicinal choices as these often help the person's mental state.

Multiple types of therapy have proven to be successful at treating the disorder. Psychodynamic therapy helps people deal with the emotions of a conflict, and cognitive behavioral therapy helps alter the negative thought patterns that lead to anxiety. Group and family therapy are useful for helping victims overcome their isolation and loneliness. Exposure therapy can help relive the trauma in a controlled environment. Another intensive inpatient option is residential treatment; the person checks into a facility that provides daily professional assistance and the stability that will help him or her cope with the disorder short term and long term.

Consequences of Non-Treatment?

Evidence shows that people who receive help after suffering from a trauma recover more quickly than do those who do not seek treatment; untreated, this disorder can lead to isolation, decreased quality of life, and possible suicide. Loved ones of victims may also develop high levels of anxiety themselves, particularly if their friend or family member does not seek professional assistance.

How Does this Disorder Affect Loved Ones?

Family members and friends often suffer right along with victims due to the nature of the disorder. Loved ones may find themselves pushed away aggressively and with little explanation. The disorder causes stress in the lives of those who live with or interact with victims; that stress can lead to numerous health issues.

How Can Loved Ones Help?

A loved one does not have to be a medical professional or counselor to help a friend or family member. The most important thing one can do is to offer love, support, and a listening ear. Loved ones should also ensure that the victim receives proper treatment and that there a high level of support throughout the process.

Frequently Asked Questions?

I do not have violent, cinematic flashbacks like people do in the movies, so I do not have PTSD, right?

While some PTSD victims can have those types of flashbacks, some flashbacks are simply strong negative memories of the trauma.

How can my friends and family help me deal with something they do not understand?

Loved ones may never fully comprehend the trauma suffered, but they can still help you through the recovery with care and support.