A car accident left you seriously injured, hospitalized for weeks, and went through intense physical therapy during recovery. But now, a year later, you’re having flashbacks, prefer to use public transportation rather than drive, and sleep poorly. Unfortunately, you may be one of the millions suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder.
What Is PTSD?
“Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is a mental health condition that’s triggered by a terrifying or traumatic event — either experiencing it or witnessing it. Symptoms may include flashbacks, nightmares, and severe anxiety, as well as uncontrollable thoughts about the event.”
Most people who experience trauma may have short-term trouble adapting and coping, but symptoms often subside with time and self-care. If symptoms worsen, persist for months or years, and restrict your daily functioning, you may have PTSD.
We character PTSD by symptoms broadly grouped as intrusion, avoidance, alterations in cognition and mood, and alterations in arousal and reactivity:
- Repetitive, involuntary memories
- Bad dreams or flashbacks
- Avoiding activities, objects, people, places, and situations that can trigger painful memories
- Avoid thinking about or remembering the event
- Can’t recall important details of the traumatic incident
- Negative feelings and thoughts
- Twisted beliefs about oneself or another
- And many others
Fortunately, you can treat the symptoms.
Like other mental health conditions, PTSD doesn’t have a single cause, and often it is the culmination of multiple events. Triggering events may include:
- Accidents like automobile or plane crashes
- Floods, earthquakes, and other natural disasters
- Instances of war or terrorism
- Crimes like a home invasion, kidnapping, or homicide
- Different kinds of abuse, either experienced or witnessed as a child or adult
- Residential fires, robbery, or physical attacks
- Being exposed to violence at school, work, or your community
- Suicide of a family member or friend
How To Deal With PTSD
People who have post-traumatic stress disorder often battle against frequent and extreme symptoms of anxiety. These powerful symptoms can lead someone with PTSD to depend on unhealthy coping mechanisms, like indulging in alcohol or drugs to control their emotions.
Thankfully, there are many healthy ways of dealing with anxiety. Continue reading for more information.
Work on your breathing
Over time, people forget how to breathe correctly and rely on their chest and shoulders to do the work (you should let your diaphragm do the heavy work). This results in short and slight breaths, which may increase stress and anxiety.
Try this oddly-named muscle relaxation technique
Progressive muscle relaxation alternates between relaxing and tensing various muscle groups throughout your body. This method is like a pendulum motion. Total relaxation of your muscles is realized by first going to the opposite extreme of tensing your muscles.
Eat healthy foods
Food isn’t just a means to reduce stress; it can also exacerbate mental illness symptoms. To lessen PTSD symptoms, enjoy whole grains, non-starchy vegetables, certain starchy vegetables like sweet potatoes, fruits, organic protein, fish, and certain meats.
Stay in the present and try mindfulness
Using mindfulness to fight anxiety can be a powerful weapon. It’s been popular for ages in certain cultures, but U.S. mental health professionals are starting to understand that mindfulness can be beneficial for people struggling with anxiety and depression.
Try ketamine infusion
Ketamine originated as a pre-surgical anesthetic in the 1960s. During the Vietnam War, it gained widespread acceptance for its success in treating wounded U.S. combat soldiers. Still, doctors, scientists, and ordinary people soon realized its other therapeutic value – reducing symptoms of mental illness like depression, chronic pain, and other treatment-resistant ailments.
Find a support network
U.S. military veterans suffering from PTSD symptoms should start with the Department of Veterans Affairs. The VA pioneered PTSD symptom and treatment research. Beyond government resources, people with PTSD can also find many local, national, and online resources to steer them toward a helpful support network of peers.
Treatment & Diagnosis
Most people who have PTSD can only be correctly diagnosed by a medical doctor or mental healthcare professional. It’s a two-step process: a physical exam to rule out a medical problem and a psychiatric assessment of your personal and family history of mental illness. The results from both are often compared to the criteria in this publication.
Your doctor or clinician may recommend treatment, like individual or group psychotherapy, self-help, or something like this.
PTSD and its symptoms affect millions of people of all ages, but it doesn’t have to rule your life. If you have any mental illness, contact a doctor or mental health professional for diagnosis and help. You can manage it and live a productive life with time and care.