Unpleasant experiences are a part of life. But for some people, recovery from a traumatic event doesn’t happen right away.
Experiencing a car accident or a natural disaster, for example, might create lingering thoughts, nightmares, problems concentrating, or paralyzing fear.
If you have experienced a traumatic event and your distress won't go away, you might have post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).
Often it will set in almost immediately after a traumatic experience, while in other cases you may experience a reaction weeks or months later. Here are some situations that suggest you could benefit from PTSD treatment:
Having disturbing thoughts or reminders of the traumatic event, such as flashbacks or nightmares
Avoiding people or situations that remind you of the event
Lingering thoughts and fears have bothered you for more than a month
Feeling that you can only blame yourself for the situation you’re in
PTSD isn’t limited to veterans or first responders. It can affect anyone.
At Eappen Clinic, we know caring and compassionate treatment will improve your PTSD. We can’t erase the past, but we can build your strength to get past disturbing thoughts and behaviors.
What is PTSD?
PTSD results from living through a traumatic event but not feeling as if you’ve “gotten over it.” As a medical condition, PTSD includes an actual or threatened experience of injury, sexual violence or death. Even something as simple as being lost in a strange city can be traumatic for some people.
You are the person who decides what’s traumatic to you. There is no one definition.
And PTSD doesn’t always mean experiencing the event yourself. It also can involve witnessing an event, hearing that something bad happened to someone close to you, or being exposed repeatedly to uncomfortable things. For example, a police officer might repeatedly hear details of abuse when investigating emergency calls.
While nearly 90% of the population reports having experienced a traumatic event, only around 8% of people will develop PTSD. The symptoms can be debilitating, affecting all other aspects of your life.
The main features of PTSD include:
- Re-experiencing symptoms of the event
- Trying to avoid reminders of the event
- Being irritable and unfocused
- Having negative thoughts or expectations about yourself
Research has found that in about one of every four cases, PTSD develops not immediately after a trauma, but six months or more after the event. We also know that trauma severity and timespan affects whether you might develop PTSD.
Unfortunately, PTSD can often be missed by healthcare providers. Someone who sees a professional for depression or physical symptoms may not be properly screened for trauma experiences that could be causing these problems.
Who gets PTSD?
There are several factors that could determine whether the trauma you experience will lead to PTSD. Women are at higher risk of PTSD than men. Most other personal characteristics don’t seem to be related to PTSD risk: It can affect any age, race or income group.
If you’ve had a past head injury, you may be at increased risk for PTSD. That partly explains why PTSD is commonly seen in combat veterans. If there were many stresses in your life even before the traumatic event you went through, your chances of having PTSD are higher.
If you have another mental health diagnosis, it is more likely that you could develop PTSD. Studies have shown that more than 90% of people diagnosed with PTSD had at least one other mental health condition sometime in their life.
In contrast, if you experienced a trauma but have had strong family or social support to help you deal with it afterwards, you may be less likely to develop PTSD.
How is PTSD treated?
Once you’ve been diagnosed with PTSD, what your treatment plan looks like will depend a lot on how often you experience symptoms and how severe they are. Because both the body and mind influence the disorder, treatment often includes a combination of medication and therapy.
A common treatment for PTSD is exposure-based therapy. Here, a therapist helps you safely recall memories that you have been trying to avoid. Gradually, you find that recalling the trauma no longer produces the anxiety or other painful symptoms you once experienced. And your fear of these memories subsides.
Exposure-based therapies are just one therapeutic approach that could work for you. Cognitive therapy also may help. This therapy involves exploring and gradually resolving any inaccurate thoughts about a situation that have made your condition worse over time.
There also are several promising medication treatments for PTSD, including antidepressants that are known as selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs). These have been shown to improve symptoms such as irritability, and to improve overall quality of life.
However, drugs may not relieve all of your symptoms. For example, in some cases, it may make sense to add a separate medication that can improve the quality of your sleep.
Should I get treatment for my PTSD?
If you have found that after a short time, you can think back to the trauma you experienced without being overcome by fear and anxiety, you probably don’t need treatment. For many, time alone heals these wounds.
But if you find yourself experiencing disturbing flashbacks over and over again, or having to make a great effort to avoid situations that remind you of what you experienced, you may need treatment to help you deal with these troubling thoughts.
You are not to blame for what happened to you, or for the feelings you’re experiencing now. Caring, compassionate treatment will help you deal with these emotions in a healthier way, allowing you to live the life you want.
At Eappen Clinic, we can help you overcome your fears in a safe, comfortable environment. Your first appointment with us is a detailed evaluation. At the end of your evaluation, you’ll know the next steps.
Let’s work together on a plan for healing your PTSD so you can feel well again.