Thursday, August 20, 2015

Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder: What Do You Need to Know?

What is post-traumatic stress disorder?

Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is defined as a mental health condition that may affect you, a family member, or a friend who has experienced or witnessed a traumatizing event. Acute Stress Disorder (ASD) may happen during the first month after a traumatic event has occurred. PTSD occurs after this initial phase, and can often continue long-term.

What are the signs and symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder?

Signs and symptoms of PTSD may include, but are not limited, to the following:
  • Flashbacks
  • Nightmares
  • Anxiety
  • Changes in personality and activities
  • An inability to maintain one's typical routine, such as attendance at work or school, or relationships
Who may PTSD affect?

According to experts, PTSD most often affects:
  • Servicemen and servicewomen
  • Cancer survivors
  • Sexual assault victims
  • Individuals who have witnessed others dying, or those who have been exposed to injury or the threat of injury
  • Those who have faced or are facing repeated stressful situations in their lives
How is post-traumatic stress disorder treated?

Treatment options for PTSD may include a combination of the following:
  • Talk therapy, which is also called cognitive therapy.
  • Guided eye movements: Eye movement desensitization and reprocessing (EMDR), a process that may help alleviate the symptoms experiencing or witnessing a traumatic event.
  • Exposure therapy: A coping mechanism that allows an individual suffering from PTSD to safely face what’s frightening him or her.
  • Medication: Antidepressants and antianxiety medications have been used to help manage PTSD.
Why does PTSD occur?

Post-traumatic stress disorder can occur based on a complicated mix of:
  • Your brain’s response to situations.
  • Your individual temperament, which is a personality trait that you inherit.
  • A collection of experiences in your life, from childhood to present.
  • A predisposed risk of anxiety and depression.
4 types of post-traumatic stress disorder:
  1. Intrusive memories: These include dreams and flashbacks that remind you of the incident.
  2. Avoidance: Staying away from places, people, or activities that remind you of the occurrence.
  3. Negative changes in thinking and mood, loss of interest in activities you once enjoyed, and changes in relationships.
  4. Changes in emotional reaction, known as arousal symptoms. These include:
    • Being easily startled or frightened.
    • Behavior such as drinking and reckless driving.
    • Sleep difficulties.
How is PTSD diagnosed and treated?

Seeking the support of family and friends can be helpful for managing stress and anxiety in the short-term. however, PTSD is a serious condition that should be diagnosed and treated by a trained medical professional, who will evaluate signs and symptoms and decide on the most effective treatment.  Medications to combat feelings of anxiety and depression may be prescribed, as well as several psychotherapy techiques such as cognitive therapy, exposure therapy, and eye movement desensitization and reprocessing, or EMDR.

Experiencing or witnessing a traumatic event doesn’t have to lead to a life-long disorder. With the proper help and support, sufferers of PTSD can learn to manage their anxiety and regain a sense of control, allowing them to maintain normal lives without high levels of stress.

To learn more about PTSD, visit the Mayo Clinic website.

Live Healthy. Live Smart.

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