What is PTSD?
When many people think about Post Traumatic Stress Disorder or PTSD for short, they often picture soldiers that are returning from war. During their time in that environment, many of the soldiers picked up physical wounds and scars. Even more, though, come back with mental wounds that can’t be seen. These scars are just as permanent and often more difficult to address and heal.
This picture of the soldier embedded in our heads has led to widespread reporting in recent years. This coverage has shined a light on the issue. Consequently, military families and officers alike are more prepared to deal with PTSD than before. They can recognize the signs and symptoms of the stress disorder and seek help.
PTSD doesn’t stop with just military personnel though. Post-traumatic stress disorder is a mental health diagnosis that can impact anyone. This disorder occurs when a person experiences uncontrollable trauma that causes distress and anxiety. It can happen to anyone of any background, age, or experience. The effects of trauma affect approximately ten percent of women and four percent of men. It can be brought on by a host of traumatic events in a person’s life. The effects of the disorder color the life that is lived from then on, but there is hope. PTSD is a treatable condition.
Reliving and Avoiding PTSD
How PTSD Begins
The PTSD cycle can begin when a person has survived some form of terrible trauma. Person-to-person violence, including rape or physical assaults, can cause PTSD symptoms. In some people, natural disasters, such as earthquakes or flooding, have also been associated with PTSD symptoms. Car accidents and train accidents — or even witnessing natural or unnatural disasters — can cause symptoms of PTSD to appear.
Symptoms of PTSD
While symptoms of PTSD vary, many people report reliving unwanted memories of the traumatic event. These episodes show up in a variety of ways including dreams, hallucinations, daydreams, and more. During the episode, some people have reported that it is like watching a video of the trauma on loop, but they are unable to stop it.
PTSD Facts: Some people with PTSD feel comfortable talking about their episodes when they take place, but other people may react in the following ways:
- Avoid people, places, and things that might trigger a memory
- Seem alert and agitated, waiting for a flashback to appear
- Avoid sleeping or be unable to sleep
- Forget key aspects of the event or refuse to discuss the event at all
Other symptoms to be aware of include withdrawal. Many people that struggle with PTSD withdraw from the people they love, and they keep to themselves as a self-defense mechanism. They may worry that if they share their thoughts, the situation will be worse, or they may feel as though no one will understand them.
Even though therapy can be helpful, not everyone suffering from PTSD gets help. In 2014 only 53 percent of the U.S. veterans diagnosed with PTSD received treatment for their condition.2
Though the push for mental health treatment acceptance has publicly made seeking help more accepted, many people still may not pursue treatment. They fear being perceived as weak or broken. It’s important to note that PTSD has nothing to do with moral character or strength. Instead, it’s a defense mechanism produced by the brain that results in a set of compulsive behaviors. These are just the sorts of issues that respond well to therapy.
PTSD and Addiction
In a study from the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, it was reported that up to 46 percent of people with PTSD also meet the criteria for a substance use disorder.3 It’s common for people with PTSD to turn to addictive drugs as they look for relief from the memories that flood their minds. Addictive drugs can make PTSD symptoms much worse, however, resulting in the following:
- Reducing the quality of sleep, making insomnia more likely
- Dampening feelings of connectivity, increasing a sense of isolation
- Increasing memory loss
- Causing irritability or hot-headedness
- Increasing a sense of depression
Treatment For PTSD
Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) can treat PTSD by helping people to understand how they think about what has happened and how some common thoughts might increase stress and despair. For example, people who blame themselves for the deaths of others might be encouraged to challenge the idea that they could have saved the people they loved. It’s hard for one person to stop a war or keep a plane from crashing, and it’s hard for one person to control the acts of others.
Therapy might help people learn how to forgive themselves, and fight the control of destructive thoughts.
Other Therapy Options
Alternative therapies might also be helpful for people with PTSD.
Meditation exercises, for example, helps people to learn how to experience memories without feeling overwhelmed by them. Mindfulness meditation helps sufferers focus on breathing and keep their minds clear and open as the mind does its work. Memories might enter the mind, but the person need not label that memory as good or bad or do anything about that memory. Instead, the person is encouraged to acknowledge the memory and the feeling associated with it, appropriately processing the past.
Help at Old Vineyard
Our trauma-focused treatment at Old Vineyard Behavioral Hospital is designed to help people with PTSD learn how to overcome their experiences. Our treatment program includes a comprehensive assessment and individual treatment plan to address the specific need. We also offer trauma focus CBT as well as psychoeducation that specializes in stress and symptom management.
All our programs are customized, based on the needs of each client and their personal history of trauma. If you have any questions about this program or you’d like to enroll, please call us at our toll-free, 24-hour helpline today.