Suffering from PTSD? Here Are the Most Common Symptoms
Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is a mental health issue developed from traumatic events. A wide variety of situations can trigger a person to develop PTSD, such as experiencing or witnessing natural disasters, physical abuse, or traffic accidents. PTSD can cause varying degrees of symptoms, which can harm one's psychological well-being.
It’s important to remember that PTSD is a completely natural response to feeling scared or distressed, especially after a traumatic incident. This is because fear is an emotion that protects people from dangerous situations. If you suspect that you may have developed specific symptoms of PTSD, you are not alone. We are here to support your recovery journey. This article will outline the causes, symptoms, and treatment approaches for PTSD.
What is PTSD?
The American Psychological Association defines post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) as a mental disorder that occurs among people who have experienced or witnessed a traumatic event. Generally speaking, PTSD is a mental health difficulty developed from an event that was deeply disturbing, distressing, or shocking to the extent of causing trauma.
Whether or not a person will develop PTSD can depend on the severity of the traumatic event. Yet it’s important to note that PTSD is not an uncommon disorder: Studies have found that it’s actually one of the most prevalent mental health issues in the world. Moreover, people who have experienced these events have a higher chance of developing lifetime PTSD, especially if it’s left untreated.
What are the Causes of PTSD?
The onset of PTSD is facilitated by a traumatic incident. The experience of the event itself might not directly trigger the issue, but when the people who have gone through it become unable to move on, they will have a higher chance of developing PTSD. Studies have also found that a lack of social support, having a neurotic personality, and having a history of mood disorders can lead to a higher chance of developing PTSD.
It is also important to note that people with PTSD are not necessarily always a direct victim of a traumatic situation: witnesses of these events are also at high risk of developing these symptoms.
Here are just a few examples of traumatic events that may lead to PTSD:
- Natural disasters (e.g. an earthquake or tsunami)
- Sexual violence or rape
- Physical or emotional abuse
- Terminal illness (e.g. cancer)
- Traffic accidents
- War or combat
What are the Symptoms of PTSD?
People with PTSD experience symptoms that may damage the way they function through their day-to-day. According to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, people with PTSD typically present the following symptoms for at least a month:
1. Intrusive Thoughts or Feelings
People with PTSD may re-experience the traumatic event in many ways ー and even at unexpected times ー for example, through nightmares, memories, or undesired flashbacks. These intrusions will remind them of the event, and such constant re-traumatization has an effect on their overall well-being.
2. Avoidant Behavior
Individuals with PTSD actively avoid stimuli related to the traumatic event. For example, people who have experienced a severe traffic accident in the past may avoid cars, or become nervous around them. These stimuli can also be invisible, and don’t necessarily need to be a physical object or an environment: for instance, certain trigger words, thoughts, or types of conversation could act as reminders of a traumatic event.
3. Altered Mood and Cognition
Memory alteration is a mechanism where people edit their memories to avoid painーwhether knowingly or unknowingly. This can happen to people with PTSD, who wish to alter their memories of a traumatic event. In other words, people with PTSD can actively forget specific details of the situation in question. Doing so can help prevent them from further ruminating over it, or even reduce their stress around it.
4. Functional Impairment
Individuals with PTSD may find it difficult to concentrate at work, or lack the motivation to engage in social situations. They may even feel unable to take care of themselves due to a depressed mood. These signs can disrupt our ability to function well on a daily basis.
5. Presence of Traumatic Event
While it may sound obvious, one of the key factors in determining the condition of a Post Traumatic Stress Disorder is the existence of a traumatic event. PTSD symptoms have a tendency to linger, and people suffering from it tend to present these signs for at least a month. Experts from the American Psychiatric Association state that in order to receive an official PTSD diagnosis, it must be clear that these characteristics are not caused by other factors like medication and substance use. As a result, people displaying these signs without having experienced a traumatic event will not be diagnosed with PTSD.
Treatment Options for PTSD
There are various approaches to treating PTSD. Here are some common holistic and scientific treatments for PTSD:
- Mindfulness training: Mindfulness training ー including mindfulness-based stress reduction, mindfulness-based cognitive therapy, and metta mindfulness ー is effective in managing PTSD. Research has highlighted that mindfulness training can help restore the connectivity of brain networks, effectively rewiring your brain and in doing so, helping to reduce symptoms.
- Art therapy: Art therapy involves using creative mediums such as coloring, drawing, and painting to help people with PTSD recover from mental health challenges. This soothing form of creativity offers people an alternate way to express their feelings, which can be very helpful, since talking about a traumatic event can be extremely difficult. Art therapy is a great way to relax the mind, and offers a means for processing a traumatic event and ultimately beginning the healing journey.
- Psycho-spiritual healing: The psycho-spiritual healing approach suggests that trauma-related spiritual distress can prolong the duration of symptoms. Psychologists have indicated that improving and building “spiritual strength” can help people shorten the duration of symptoms and increase mental strength. Ways to build this can look different for each person, but some great options include meditation, learning to trust the process while being less attached to the outcome, refilling your cup through things that give you strength, acknowledging your gratitude for the blessings or good things in your life, spending more time with supportive people, and teaching yourself to dig deeper inwards for greater resilience when going through a challenging experience.
- Cognitive Behavioral therapy: Cognitive Behavioral therapy (CBT) is a psychoeducational approach to educating people on the concept that feelings result from cognition. Identifying specific thought patterns around a traumatic event can be the initial step towards recovery from PTSD.
- Prolonged exposure therapy: Prolonged exposure therapy is more suited to people with more severe conditions. The treatment directly exposes them to stimuli related to the traumatic event in question, with the goal of equipping them with skills to better deal with their feelings and reactions about the incident, and helping them recover.
Recovering from PTSD can be challenging, but there is hope and potential for improvement and healing. One recent study found that the first three months can be the most critical part of the recovery journey from a traumatic event. No matter what stage someone is seeking help or support with their PTSD, with the appropriate guidance, recovery is indeed possible.
If you suspect that you might have developed PTSD symptoms, remember that you are not alone. There are people who can support your recovery journey, and help you overcome this challenge!
All of the content on our website is thoroughly researched to ensure that the information shared is evidence-based. For more information, please visit the academic journals that influenced this article: Global Prevalence And Associated Risk Factors Of Posttraumatic Stress Disorder During Covid-19 Pandemic: A Meta-Analysis, Multiple Traumatic Experiences, Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder And Offending Behaviour In Female Prisoners, Neuroticism And Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder: A Prospective Investigation, The Genetics Of Stress-Related Disorders: Ptsd, Depression, And Anxiety Disorders, Effects Of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder On Interrogative Suggestibility In Minor Witnesses Of Sexual Abuse, Mindfulness-Based Treatments For Posttraumatic Stress Disorder: A Review Of The Treatment Literature And Neurobiological Evidence, Building Spiritual Strength: A Group Treatment For Posttraumatic Stress Disorder, Moral Injury, And Spiritual Distress, Ptsd In The Year Following Sexual Assault: A Meta-Analysis Of Prospective Studie
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