Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)

PTSD ocean waves

Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) is a severe condition that is classified as an anxiety disorder and usually develops after a person is exposed to a highly frightening, life-threatening experience such as military combat, natural disasters, terrorist incidents, kidnapping, concentration camps, torture, serious accidents, or physical or sexual assault.

Many survivors of traumatic experience recover given a little time. However, some people are not able to return to normal and their anxiety reaction worsens over time. These individuals may develop PTSD with a series of symptoms that can significantly impair their daily life.

PTSD’s three major set of symptoms:

  1. Reenactment. After the traumatic experience, they still re-experience it through recurring flashbacks and nightmares. They relieve what they went through with strong emotions such as anxiety, sadness or even aggressiveness. Sometimes memories of the traumatic event can come back unexpectedly or triggered by reminders such as specific sound, sight or smell resembling some sensory portion of the original trauma. Sometimes these memories are relived as if the event is actually happening again. This flashback generates fear, anxiety and helplessness. Anniversaries of the event are often very difficult to endure.
  2. Avoidance. They tend to avoid situations and people that trigger memories of the traumatic event. They stay away from certain places or avoid watching certain television programs or news reports about similar traumatic events. Often they feel emotionally numb and isolate themselves.
  3. Heightened emotional arousal. The third set of symptoms includes things such as feeling irritable, easily startled and on guard for any signs of danger. They may feel constantly alert which can cause difficulty sleeping, difficulty concentrating and outbursts of anger.

PSTD is treated usually with a combination of medication and psychotherapy. A family doctor or a psychiatrist may prescribe medication to relieve the symptoms of anxiety or depression. While antidepressants and anxiolytics may help you feel less sad, worried, or on edge, they seldom help the person overcome the stress of their trauma.

The most common type of psychotherapy that is used for PSTD is cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT). The main technique of this approach for trauma involves gradually exposing you to situations, thoughts and sensory stimuli that remind you of the trauma. Moreover, the psychotherapist identifies and challenges your distorted and irrational thoughts about the traumatic event and tries to replace them with more rational and realistic ones. You would also learn how to identify those key thoughts and self talks that trigger negative emotions.