You would think once the negative experience is over, everything will be back to normal. Unfortunately, for some, it isn’t like that. Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) is an anxiety disorder that develops after a traumatic, threatening or terrifying ordeal. While it’s normal for people to feel distressed after a traumatic experience, it becomes PTSD when the symptoms last long and interfere the person’s normal life. Also, it’s not only the victims of the traumatic experience that can go through PTSD but also their family members. This disorder, which can occur in people of any age, is twice more common in women than in men.
Symptoms of PTSD
To be diagnosed with this disorder, you need to have one or more of these symptoms persisting for at least a month and inhibiting a person’s everyday living:
• Re-experiencing the traumatic ordeal – Upsetting memories, flashbacks, nightmare, and intense physical reactions when reminded of the event (rapid heartbeat, nausea, muscle tension, and sweating).
• Avoidance and numbness – Avoidance of places, thoughts and activities that serve as reminder for the trauma; inability to remember certain events of the trauma; loss of interest in social activities and life; and feeling of emotional numbness.
• Increased anxiety and emotional arousal – Sleep difficulties, irritability, violent outbursts, lack of concentration, hypervigilance, and being jumpy or easily startled.
• Other common symptoms – Anger, guilt, shame, self-blame, substance abuse, mistrust to people, feeling of betrayal, depression, suicidal thoughts, helplessness, and physical aches and pains.
• Physical symptoms – Headaches, gastrointestinal ailments, immune system problems, dizziness, chest pain, nausea, and irregular bowel movements.
Traumatic Events That Can Trigger PTSD
War is the number one event that people associate with PTSD. That’s because this disorder is widely prevalent in soldiers and individuals who have been involved in military combat.
But there are also other traumatic events that can lead to this disorder. Examples are natural disasters, car accidents, plane crashes, terrorist attacks, sudden death of someone close, rape, kidnapping, assault, sexual or physical abuse, childhood bad memories, and so on.
Risk Factors of PTSD
Certain factors that pertain to the traumatic experience can increase the risk of PTSD.
For one, if the traumatic experience caused severe threat to personal safety or life, a person has bigger chances of acquiring PTSD. The duration and gravity of the threat also play a role. The longer and more extreme the threat is, the higher is the risk of PTSD.
Human-inflicted harm (violent assault, rape or torture) is also more traumatic than natural disasters like earthquakes or floods.
Other risk factors include previous traumatic experiences especially in childhood, family history of depression or PTSD, history of physical or sexual abuse, substance abuse, high stress, lack of emotional support after the trauma, and lack of coping skills.
Treatment for PTSD
The main component of PTSD treatment is therapy. This include cognitive-behavioral therapy, exposure therapy, or group therapy. In exposure therapy, the person is asked to gradually re-live the traumatic experience to help him handle it more effectively. There are also certain forms of medications used to treat this disorder including serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) and other antidepressants to help alleviate PTSD symptoms.