As we have discussed before on this blog, many women at Calvary are survivors of abuse and trauma. And, often, this can lead to post-traumatic stress disorder. However, many who come through our doors are completely unaware of the long-term affects their past-traumas may have had on their lives. It is so important to not only know what post-traumatic stress disorder is, but also to be able to realize when/if you might be suffering from it.
What is Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder?
Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PSTD) is a severe anxiety disorder that can develop after experiencing a stressful, frightening, life-threatening event or situation. Exposure to any event which results in psychological trauma, overwhelming a person’s ability to cope, may lead to PTSD. PTSD sufferers re-experience the original traumatic event (s), often through flashbacks, nightmares, etc. and tend to avoid places, people, or other things that remind them of the event, as well as are extremely sensitive to normal life experiences The stress and hyperarousal associated with this condition make it very difficult for those suffering from PTSD to continue about leading normal, independent lives.
Who gets Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder?
Anyone who experiences an event that compromises their emotional well-being or is life-threatening may develop PTSD. It has a lifetime prevalence of 7%-30%, with about 5 million people suffering from the illness in any one year. Women, girls and minorities are at a higher risk for developing PTSD, and an increased length of exposure or severity of the trauma can also increase the risk of developing PTSD. Those who have experienced prolonged exposure to traumatic event(s) are often diagnosed with complex post-traumatic stress disorder (C-PTSD), which is characterized by long-lasting emotional problems, issues regulating feelings, dissociation, persistent depression, etc. Such events that may trigger PTSD include: experiencing or witnessing a severe accident or physical injury, getting a frightening medical diagnosis, being the victim of a crime or torture, exposure to combat, or enduring any form of abuse.
What are the symptoms?
There are three groups of symptoms that are required to be diagnosed with PTSD: recurrent re-experiencing, avoidance, and hyperarousal. Those who suffer from PTSD continually re-experience the past trauma through flashbacks, nightmares and other troublesome memories. They also tend to avoid places, people, experiences, etc. that might remind the sufferer of the trauma. There are also physical signs of hyperarousal, such as, trouble sleeping or concentrating, irritability, difficulty remembering, easily started, and a hypervigilance. There also is an extreme emotional numbing that is associated with PTSD, which often manifests itself as a lack of interest in previously enjoyed activities, emotional deadness, isolation from friends/family, preoccupation with mortality.
How do you treat Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder?
It can often be difficult to diagnose those suffering from PTSD because it often co-occurs with depression, other anxiety disorders, and substance abuse. Treatments for PTSD include both psychological and medical. Directly addressing the sleep problems that are associated with PTSD has been found to help alleviate many of the symptoms in general. Education is also key. Helping the individuals learn more about the illness, talk to others for support, talk about the trauma directly, use relaxation techniques, and increase positive lifestyle practices (such as exercising and healthy eating) all help those suffering from PTSD cope with their illness. Have a family member or friend suffering from PTSD? Let them know that you care for them and are there for them to talk to, be supportive and help them seek medical attention. Also, family and couples’ counseling can be very useful interventions to help those who are suffering.