Hello my friends! I’m so proud that this is our fifth week for the Exploring Neurodiversity and Mental Health series. This entire concept has meant so much to something I am so passionate about: neurodiversity and mental health awareness and education. For week number 5, I want to share a subject very near to my heart, P.T.S.D. I know I have said this about other subjects, but PTSD is a daily struggle for me.
What is Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder?
Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder is a condition that develops after a traumatic event. This event can include combat, physical or sexual assault, natural disasters, terrorists attacks and much more. The person who develops PTSD can be the one experiencing the event or witnessing a loved one. Within the moment of a dangerous or scary event, the brain triggers a flight or fight reaction. For a person who develops PTSD, these feelings do not go away.
It’s important to acknowledge not everyone who suffers a traumatic event develops PTSD. The normal response to a traumatic event is to feel upset, nervous, shaky and emotional. If the symptoms last more than a month and interfere with daily life, the diagnosis is PTSD. A person can suffer from acute(short-term) PTSD or chronic or life long PTSD.
Doctors are researching to see if genes play a role in who develops PTSD after traumatic events. However, there are some things called resilience factors that can play a role in whether a person develops PTSD. A person who does not develop PTSD is not simply “stronger” but often has these factors in place to help them cope. They are:
- Seeking out proper support after a traumatic event, whether from family and friends, a support group or a professional.
- Having positive coping skills in place after an event.
- Feeling comfort or pride in how one responds in a traumatic event.
- The capability to respond well within the moment despite feelings of fear or unrest.
- Neurobiological and genetic factors that researchers are exploring
With the research being put into the biological and genetic factors of PTSD, the hope is to someday be able to predict with more certainty the people who may develop PTSD in reaction to a traumatic event and prevent it.
What are the symptoms of PTSD?
There are four main groups of symptoms when it comes to PTSD: avoidance, re-experiencing, mood symptoms, and reactivity.
The avoidance symptoms are pretty straight forward. They occur when a person purposefully avoids situations, places or thoughts that bring forward the memories of their trauma. An example of the avoidance is a person who was in a traumatic car accident no longer driving. While certain avoidance techniques, such as places, will happen with fairly little change to the daily life, others will not.
Re-experiencing the trauma can and usually does cause serious implications to a persons day-to-day life. This can include flashbacks, nightmares, intrusive thoughts, and distressing projecting. This state of re-experience can be triggered by people, places, scents or things. It is an unwelcome guest that can cause the trauma to be momentarily relived.
Mood symptoms include a disinterest in activities, feelings of guilt or blame, memory problems, and depression or anxiety. Memory problems often occur around the event. A person with PTSD may experience these symptoms before the event. They alienate a person from ones support systems.
Reactivity symptoms are often constant following a traumatic event. These include sleep disturbances, emotional outbursts, feeling anxious or on edge and being easily startled. Reactive symptoms can make it difficult to get through daily lives.
What are the treatments for post-traumatic stress disorder?
The two main treatments for post-traumatic stress disorder are medication and psychotherapy. Some use both treatments. PTSD can also co-exist with other disorders, such as depression, anxiety and substance abuse. Any coexisting disorder will have its own treatment.
The most common kind of medication used to treat PTSD are antidepressants. Antidepressants can help the feelings of numbness, hopelessness, and worry or sadness. Medications can also treat specific symptoms. Some find the use of sleep aids helps with bad dreams and restless nights. Others use anti anxieties to treat the anxious symptoms.
Talk therapy can be a one-on-one session or in a group. Therapy educates the person with PTSD how to properly manage their emotions. It also provides help with controlling symptoms and gives coping mechanisms for specific behaviors. When working with PTSD, another form of therapy that can help is exposure therapy. Exposure therapy puts someone with PTSD in controlled situations where they face their triggers.
While talk therapy may not end symptoms, it provides proper ways to deal with them. It can also help with coexisting disorders. Treatment of coexisting disorders can help alleviate PTSD symptoms. Cognitive Behavioral Therapy(CBT) is a common type of therapy a doctor will use for PTSD.
An important note regarding PTSD and foster or adopted children! About one in every four foster youth will exhibit behaviors and symptoms that point towards post-traumatic stress disorder. Many of these children are exposed to violence or experience it themselves. It is important as a foster or adoptive parent to be extra aware the higher risk of PTSD. Treatment can help immensely; but it must be pursued.
When you are parenting or a family member to a child with PTSD, it is possible to struggle with “secondary PTSD.” This can be triggering your own traumatic history or it can simply be from the experience of hearing about your child or siblings traumatic experience. It is imperative that if a person is dealing with secondary PTSD, they find a way to treat it as well.
Next week I will be sharing things your loved ones with PTSD want you to know!