Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)

What is PTSD

PTSD or Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder is the emergence of certain levels of dysfunction in dealing with daily life stresses after experiencing a traumatic stress event. Some symptoms of this disorder include: Insomnia, high startle response, recurring nightmares, isolation to maintain safety, obsessive thoughts/compulsive actions to provide sense of safety, and employing personally designed actions to insure safety.

More about PTSD

Common Reactions after Trauma- Following a traumatic event, people typically describe feeling things like relief to be alive, followed by stress, fear and anger. They also often find they are unable to stop thinking about what happened. Many people also exhibit high levels of anxiety or constant preparation for attack. Stress reactions happen naturally and have nothing to do with personal strength or weakness.

Most trauma survivors (including combat veterans, abused children, sexual abuse survivors, adults raised in a dysfunctional childhood environment and disaster relief workers) experience common stress reactions soon after the event or series of events. Understanding what is happening when you or someone you know reacts to a traumatic event will help you be less fearful and better able to handle things.

The common reactions are

  • Feeling hopeless about the future
  • Feeling detachment or lack of concern about others
  • Trouble concentrating, indecisiveness
  • Jumpiness; startling easily at sudden noises
  • Nervous system on guard and constantly alert
  • Disturbing dreams, memories or flashbacks
  • Work, school and family problems

Physical reactions also can be experienced such as:

  • Stomach upset, trouble eating
  • Trouble sleeping, exhaustion
  • Pounding heart, rapid breathing, edginess
  • Severe headache if thinking of the event, sweating
  • Failure to engage in healthy exercise, diet, safe sex, regular health care
  • Excess smoking, alcohol, drugs, food
  • Worsening of chronic medical problems

Emotional reactions can occur such as:

  • Feeling nervous, helpless, fearful, sad
  • Feeling shock, numbness, unable to experience love or joy
  • Avoiding people, places, and things related to the event
  • Irritability or outbursts of anger
  • Becoming easily upset or agitated
  • Self-blame or negative views of oneself or the world
  • Distrust of others, conflict, being over-controlling
  • Withdrawal, feeling rejected or abandoned
  • Loss of intimacy or feeling detached

Recovery is a gradual process with ups and downs. It doesn’t happen through suddenly being “cured” and it doesn’t mean that you will forget what happened. For most people, fear, anxiety, flashbacks, efforts to avoid reminders (triggers), and arousal (hyper-alertness) symptoms gradually decrease in frequency and intensity over time with help.

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