Getting Help for Posttraumatic Stress Disorder

At some point in their lives, many people go through traumatic events. These events create feelings of distress that are much stronger than what you experience on the average day. Your distress may appear as a variety of unpleasant mental and physical reactions. Most of the time, it is possible to rebound quickly from traumatic experiences. However, some people do not rebound quickly. Instead, they develop a serious mental health condition called PTSD, or posttraumatic stress disorder

Professional treatment is typically needed to recover from PTSD. This is true because the disorder can damage your ability to function or feel well. Today, you have many options for effective treatment. With help from a plan suited to your needs, you can overcome even the most powerful PTSD symptoms. 

What Is PTSD

Short-term distressing reactions to traumatic situations are to be expected. That is true because these situations do such things as:

  • Put your life in actual danger
  • Make you genuinely feel like that your life may be in danger
  • Force you to witness disturbing incidents or events

In the aftermath of trauma exposure, you may feel insecure, fearful, jumpy or shocked. These feelings usually fade as you gain distance from your exposure. However this is not always the case. Some people experience strong, lingering effects after a traumatic event. If these effects disrupt your life even after a substantial amount of time, you may have PTSD.

The signature effect of PTSD is making you feel seriously distressed long after the moment of trauma has passed. Your distress may manifest in a number of different ways. However you experience it, the end result is a significant negative impact on your ability to function.

Mental health experts once classified PTSD as a type of anxiety disorder. Today, the illness is grouped together with conditions called trauma– and stressor-related disorders. This change was made because not all people with PTSD experience symptoms of anxiety.

In the typical year, posttraumatic stress disorder affects roughly 8 million American adults. Women develop the illness at a significantly higher rate than men. The condition also affects smaller number of teens and younger children. 

Types of PTSD

When most people think of PTSD, there is a good chance they are picturing the symptoms found in adults. This makes sense since adults are affected more often than children. However, children with PTSD do not always experience the same problems as adults. This means that there are, in essence, two types of PTSD: one that appears adults and one that appears children. 

Young children are especially likely to have symptoms that differ from those found in adults. The older a child gets, the more this difference disappears. Still, even teenagers may have symptoms that are uncommon among adults. 

Signs and Symptoms of PTSD

Signs and Symptoms of PTSD

Symptoms in Adults

Adult symptoms of PTSD are grouped into four categories. Symptoms from each of these categories appear at the same time. You may experience a wide variety of specific problems. 

The first category includes what are known as re-experiencing symptoms. These are symptoms that make you feel as if you are in some way reliving a traumatic event. This reliving may take the form of:

  • Vivid, waking moments of mental and physical recall called flashbacks
  • Nightmares
  • Specific unpleasant thoughts

The second category includes avoidance symptoms. These symptoms make you want to stay away from things that bring back memories of a traumatic event. That includes taking steps such as:

  • Trying not to think about what you saw or experienced
  • Steering clear of any emotions that serve as a reminder
  • Avoiding anything in daily life that brings back traumatic memories

Arousal and reactivity symptoms form the third category. These symptoms do not typically just come and go depending on the situation. Instead, they remain active all of the time. Specific things you may experience include:

  • A low threshold for being startled or scared
  • Bouts of anger
  • A constant sense of tension or jumpiness
  • Poor sleep

The fourth category includes cognition and mood symptoms. These symptoms alter the way you think and feel, and may include such things as:

  • An inability to remember what happened to you during a traumatic event
  • A disregard for activities that you used to find pleasurable
  • Feelings of detachment or alienation from others
  • A sense of blame or guilt that distorts what actually happened
  • Self-negativity or more general feelings of negativity

 Symptoms in Children

Children aged five or younger are most likely to have symptoms that differ from those in adults. Specific issues may include:

  • Using moments of play to act out traumatic events
  • Reverting back to bed wetting
  • Not remembering how to talk
  • Losing the ability to talk
  • Resisting being separated from parents or any given adult

Children over the age of five and teenagers usually have symptoms that largely overlap with adult symptoms. However, they may also have some unique problems. These problems can include:

  • Acting in disruptive or destructive ways
  • Showing signs of disrespect for adult authority
  • Feeling responsible for what happened during a traumatic event
  • Wanting to avenge a traumatic event in some way

PTSD Causes and Risk Factors

The majority of people who experience traumatic events never develop PTSD. No one knows exactly why the disorder occurs. However, evidence shows that a range of things may contribute to your risks. Examples here include:

  • Having a history of some kind of serious trauma as a child
  • Feeling unable to do anything to stop a traumatic event from happening
  • Experiencing extreme fear during such an event
  • Being injured during a traumatic event
  • Seeing someone die or get injured
  • Having to cope with the death of someone you know after a traumatic event
  • Trying to cope with other extreme stresses as a result of a traumatic event 
  • Suffering from substance problems or mental illness at the time of the trauma
  • Surviving an event that put your life in danger
  • Lacking an adequate support network in the days and weeks after an event

PTSD Diagnosis

PTSD Diagnosis

It is more common than ever for people to try and diagnose their own mental health conditions. This is due, in large part, to the enormous amount of information available over the Internet. But even if you take “do I have PTSD” quizzes, you cannot accurately self-diagnose PTSD. Instead, you must seek help from a trained professional.

To be diagnosed with PTSD, you must have undergone a traumatic event. You must also be affected by symptoms from each of the four PTSD categories. That includes one or more re-experiencing symptoms. It also includes one or more avoidance symptoms. In addition, you must have a minimum of two arousal and reactivity symptoms. Finally, you must have a minimum of two cognition and mood symptoms.

People with PTSD must continue to experience their symptoms more than a month after a traumatic event. Your symptoms must also be serious enough to disrupt important areas of your life. Two types of professionals can provide you with a PTSD screening and exam: psychiatrists and doctorate-level psychologists. 

Addiction and PTSD

Having PTSD can dramatically increase your odds of abusing drugs or alcohol. The same is true for your odds of getting addicted. Whenever a mental illness and substance problems occur together, the result is known as dual diagnosis. People with dual diagnosis typically face a more challenging journey to recovery. That is true because of the need to get help for the combined effects of at least two serious disorders. 

PTSD Treatment and Therapy Options

To recover from PTSD, you may need help from certain medications. You may also need help from specific kinds of psychotherapy. 

PTSD Medications

To control multiple symptoms of PTSD at once, your doctor may prescribe an antidepressant medication. Two specific types of antidepressants, SNRIs and SSRIs, are used most often. Your treatment plan may also include medications for a more limited set of symptoms. For example, you may receive help from sedatives or antianxiety drugs. 

PTSD Psychotherapy

The most common therapy options for PTSD include cognitive behavioral therapies, or CBTs. Different types of these treatments help you in different ways. For example, stress inoculation therapy builds up your resistance to the effects of stress. Prolonged exposure therapy helps you become less reactive to things that remind you of trauma events. Cognitive processing therapy helps you change how you think and feel about your traumatic experiences. 

Other types of psychotherapy may also be important to your PTSD recovery. Potential options include:

  • Group therapy
  • Psychodynamic therapy
  • Interpersonal therapy

Some PTSD programs now include complementary options for treating this disorder. These options are not therapy or medication replacements. Instead, you receive them as part of a comprehensive treatment plan. One possible option is working with a therapy animal. You may also benefit from things like meditation, yoga or acupuncture. 

Learn More About Recovering From PTSD

Some people recover from PTSD without undergoing treatment. However, you should never attempt this to do this without consulting a mental health expert. A far safer and more reliable path is to enter a formal PTSD program. Taking this step allows you to benefit from the care of professionals. Without this care, recovery may be an elusive or impossible goal.

This is especially true since PTSD is sometimes chronic. That means that it continues to affect you for extended periods of time, and possibly for life. The right treatment will help you cope with chronic PTSD and return to a fulfilling, stable lifestyle. 

To learn more about state-of-the-art PTSD treatment, contact Emerald Isle today. We feature a full range of services for people with this disorder. We also feature modern treatment for the combined symptoms of dual diagnosis. Emerald Isle is dedicated to helping you maximize your PTSD recovery.