Having problems dealing with memories of dangerous, deadly, or stressful situations is a hallmark of what it means to be alive. But if bad memories turn to relationship problems, avoidance, anger, and other dangerous symptoms, you may be experiencing post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Thankfully, its worst symptoms can be managed.
What is PTSD?
“Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) can develop after exposure to a potentially traumatic event that is beyond a typical stressor. Events that may lead to PTSD include, but are not limited to, violent personal assaults, natural or human-caused disasters, accidents, combat, and other forms of violence. Exposure to events like these is common. About one-half of all U.S. adults will experience at least one traumatic event in their lives, but most do not develop PTSD.” Often it isn’t just one event, but the additive stress of multiple traumas throughout life that leads to PTSD.
Does it Only Affect Soldiers?
PTSD doesn’t discriminate as to who it affects. Unfortunately, it casts a wide net and can harm anyone regardless of age, gender, wealth, politics, religiosity, or other socioeconomic markers. According to the U.S. National Institute of Mental Health, post-traumatic stress disorder affects nearly four percent of adults in America, and nearly five percent of adolescents 13- to 18-years old. In either case, for adults or adolescents, instances of PTSD are higher for females than males.
Finding Relief From PTSD
Treating symptoms of PTSD or another mental or physical ailment is often a deeply personal decision between doctor and patient. Therapeutic options may include:
Ketamine is a kind of treatment that was synthesized in the early 1960s as a new form of pre-surgical anesthesia. In order to test it as widely as possible under the most trying circumstances, batches were shipped by the U.S. military to treat wounded combat soldiers in Vietnam. Several years later, ketamine was proven effective in treating symptoms of depression, PTSD, and chronic pain disorders.
Different kinds of psychotherapy are often the first choice for people suffering from PTSD, mostly due to its long history of acceptance. Specific examples your doctor or mental healthcare provider may discuss include:
- Cognitive therapy. This form of talk therapy assists you in recognizing the kinds of thinking (also called cognitive patterns) that may be harmful — for example, bad thoughts about yourself and the risk of painful things happening again. For PTSD, cognitive therapy often is utilized along with exposure therapy.
- Exposure therapy. This behavioral treatment helps you safely navigate both memories and situations that you deem frightening to develop effective coping techniques. Exposure therapy can be especially helpful for nightmares and flashbacks. One method employs virtual reality programs that help you re-enter the situation in which you suffered trauma.
- Eye movement desensitization and reprocessing (EMDR). This combines exposure therapy with a sequence of guided eye movements that assist you in processing traumatic recollections and alter how you respond to them.
Not every person who experiences PTSD needs or wants to take prescription medicine. However, doctors may recommend antidepressants, anti-anxiety medications, and other medications with other therapy types.
A doctor or clinician may also recommend simple lifestyle changes to combat PTSD symptoms. This may include deep-breathing exercises, muscle relaxation, mindfulness, social support, avoiding alcohol and tobacco, and diet and exercise.
PTSD Throughout Human History
Stress has expressed itself in one way or another throughout human history. Attacks by wild animals or trauma from natural or manmade disasters have likely triggered intense psychological responses in survivors of such incidents. The first descriptions, of course, appear in the annals of great literature and paint early parallels to what’s known as PTSD. Symptoms of the illness were depicted in The Iliad, Henry IV, and A Tale of Two Cities.
How to Diagnose PTSD
Like other mental health disorders, PTSD is diagnosed by a medical doctor or mental health professional. The physical examination and psychiatric evaluation results are then compared to criteria published in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5). PTSD was first added to the DSM-3 in 1980.
Treating PTSD varies based on many conditions, including mental and physical health, a history of personal and mental illness, and comfort level with certain therapies. Once you’ve been diagnosed with PTSD, a healthcare provider may recommend in-patient and out-patient therapy, group therapy, self-help, lifestyle changes, or options like ketamine therapy.
Like other kinds of mental illness, PTSD can have serious consequences if left unchecked. For anyone experiencing its symptoms long-term, the best chance of regaining control of their life is to get a professional diagnosis from a doctor or mental health professional. Contact us today to learn more!