Experiencing upsetting things is common while we are living. Additionally, there will be things or situations that will affect us tremendously and make us experience heightened emotions like shock, anger, fear, etc. In Psychology, this is often called trauma or the emotional response we develop to address terrible events like accidents, death of a loved one, assault, and even natural disasters.
However, people who experienced shocking, dangerous, or life-threatening situations may potentially develop PTSD or Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder. This is a condition wherein people may experience (or reexperience) distress even when they are not in any apparent danger. It is a serious condition that may potentially debilitate or hinder a person from living a full life.
What does Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder do to a person?
After traumatic events, it is normal to have distressing memories or flashbacks, unsettling feelings, and trouble sleeping. Most people who experienced trauma may find it hard to engage in day-to-day activities like working, going to school, or maintaining relationships. Often, this usually lasts for a short period, as most people usually feel better in a few weeks or months. Prolonged experience of distress may indicate that a person has PTSD. Specific symptoms of PTSD vary across individuals, but they generally belong in the following categories below.
- Re-experiencing: The most common symptom of PTSD is re-experiencing. It is when patients involuntarily and vividly remembers the traumatic experience. They experience it through flashbacks, nightmares, recurring distressing feelings, memories, and images, and physical sensations (physical pain, sweating, nausea, shaking, etc). Some experience this through consistent negative thoughts and questions that hinder them from processing and coming to terms with their trauma.
- Emotional numbing and avoidance: Another key sign of PTSD is emotional numbing and avoidance. People who have experienced trauma may start avoiding certain places, people, or activities that possibly remind them of their traumatic experience. Often, they will spend more time in work, study, or hobbies to distract themselves and push the event out of their minds. Some avoid talking to anyone about their experience, and they may even attempt to not deal with their feelings at all by numbing themselves.
- Heightened arousal: People struggling with PTSD are always ‘on edge’ or they find it hard to relax. They are easily startled and are constantly on guard against possible threats, also known as hyperarousal.
- Other symptoms: Someone with PTSD may also struggle with mental health problems (anxiety and depression), destructive behaviors (substance misuse or abuse), and physical symptoms (aches and pains on various parts of the body, nausea, vomiting).
Children with PTSD
Children can also develop PTSD. For older children with post-traumatic stress disorder, their symptoms will be quite similar to that of adults. Signs may include disrupted sleep or trouble sleeping, recurring nightmares. They may also lose interest in activities they used to engage in, as well as develop physical and mental symptoms.
Some of the signs to look for in younger children are the following:
- Difficult behavior
- Avoiding things connected to their trauma
- Re-enacting events related to their trauma through play.
For those younger than six years old, wetting the bed after being potty trained, inability to talk, and being unusually clingy are some of the usual symptoms.
Symptoms of Complex Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder
People exposed to prolonged trauma like long-term abuse may develop complex post-traumatic stress disorder or CPTSD. Often CPTSD symptoms are similar to PTSD. However, they also exhibit the following:
- Feeling guilt and shame
- Struggling to control emotions
- Dissociation or periodic loss of attention and concentration
- Self-isolation or cutting connections and relationships
- Self-destructive behaviors (substance misuse and abuse, self-harm)
- Suicidal ideation
These symptoms can be debilitating for a person’s growth and development, so it is important to monitor them and see whether they show improvement or not, and whether seeking medical help is necessary.
Can OCD come from PTSD?
Various studies associate trauma and Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder or OCD together. This disorder is characterized by uncontrollable, recurring thoughts commonly referred to as obsessions (i.e fear of germs or sickness, wanting things to be in particular number or arrangement, unwanted ideas or thoughts that are considered taboo, etc.) and the actions and behaviors or compulsions that an individual may be urged to do repeatedly to address their obsessions.
Researches found a huge overlap between PTSD and OCD, as both deals with intrusive and repeating thoughts that induce fear or anxiety. In a study by Gershuny, et al in 2003, they discovered that PTSD patients use OCD symptoms to cope with their trauma-related symptoms.
The research suggests that PTSD and OCD are two disorders in the same continuum or they are in the same progression. This means that there is a likelihood for people struggling with PTSD to develop OCD along the line, if not addressed properly.
How long does post-traumatic stress disorder last?
Typically, symptoms of PTSD develop in the first few weeks or a month after a traumatic event. However, there are instances when there is a delay in developing symptoms, sometimes even years after the trauma.
Some people with PTSD may experience ‘cycles’ or periods when their symptoms are much more manageable or less noticeable. Then, aggravation follows when their symptoms are more severe. There are also instances when people with PTSD only experience severe symptoms.
Most cases gradually improve with time. But of course, working with a professional often leads to significant progress and better lives for patients.
Is PTSD permanent or is it curable?
Symptoms of PTSD can have tremendous impacts on an individual’s life. They can be persistent and severe enough to hinder daily functioning and living a full life. As with any mental health condition, post-traumatic stress disorder is not curable. However, managing its symptoms is possible. With the right professional help, healing and recovery are possible for anyone struggling with PTSD.
Can someone control their PTSD with therapy?
Symptoms of PTSD can be successfully addressed. Various researches and evidence-based clinical practices have helped in developing new treatments and strategies for PTSD. The effectiveness of treatment usually depends on the severity and the time of the onset of symptoms.
The focal treatments for this condition are psychological therapy and medications. As PTSD is a very personal illness, it affects people differently and may entail trying different strategies and approaches to find out what works for them.
The most studied medication in addressing PTSD is antidepressants, as they help in managing the emotional symptoms of the condition. A licensed clinician may also prescribe other medications that address the patient’s sleeping problems, recurring nightmares, and other physical symptoms.
On the other hand, various types of psychotherapy have been proven to help patients with PTSD. Some therapies are directly focusing on managing symptoms and even social and relational issues. One of the most helpful and versatile therapies used in addressing mental health illness is Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy or CBT. In addressing PTSD, CBT may include:
- Exposure therapy. This form of therapy gradually exposes patients to their traumatic experience safely by using imagination, writing, or even revisiting the site or place of their trauma.
- Cognitive restructuring. People with PTSD may remember their traumatic experience differently than how the event actually happened. This manifests in feeling shame and guilt about something related to the trauma. As a result, this leads to patients blaming themselves for something that is not their fault. This therapy helps patients make sense of their skewed or bad memories of their traumatic experience and make them view the event in a realistic way
Take the first step
People suffering from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder in Long Beach may find it difficult to recognize and take the necessary steps to address their condition. If you or your loved one is unsure about your situation, you may visit us here at Roots Through Recovery, 3939 Atlantic Ave #102, Long Beach, CA 90807, USA. You may also call us at 866-766-8776. It is important to keep in mind that with time, patience, and the right professional help, you or your loved one will be able to love, connect, and thrive again.