Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)

ptsd   When most people hear the words “Post Traumatic Stress Disorder” (PTSD) they think of it as a problem connected with the military and the war in the middle east. This is true. However, PTSD can happen to anyone experiencing or witnessing an intense traumatic event. This could be an auto accident, an assault, a rape or any event that is life threatening and intense. PTSD is loosely defined as “an emotional and psychological reaction to trauma, a painful and shocking experience.” After trauma, survivors feel their lives have changed. What was once a safe and secure world may suddenly seem dangerous and unpredictable. PTSD can affect your personal relationships, your social life and your work.

     Symptoms of PTSD include recurring memories or flash backs of the event. Often survivors continually relive the experience in their mind. They cannot control these flashbacks or predict what may trigger them. People with PTSD may have very vivid nightmares reliving the events. Physically, the survivor may have headaches, nausea and chest pains. They may suffer anxiety, depression, jumpiness, unable to relax. They are always on guard against the event recurring. These symptoms often cause the individual to withdraw from people, abuse drugs or alcohol, or have conflicts with people around them.

   For an official diagnosis of PTSD, in accordance with the Diagnostic Manual of Disorders put out by the American Psychological Society, the symptoms must last for more than one month and include flashbacks, numbness plus physical symptoms.

   Recovery takes time and professional guidance. Many people will deny the event even happened or forget major parts of the event. Forgetting the event, is the mind’s attempt to escape from the horror. With the help of a psychiatrist, psychologist, or other mental health specialist the survivor can resolve the problems caused by PTSD. This treatment may include prescription medication, plus individual or group talk therapy. There are several types of talk therapy, these include cognitive behavior therapy, exposure therapy, stress inoculation therapy and Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing. (EMDR). In exposure therapy, the patient will gradually relive the experience with a counselor in a safe environment in order to face the problem and adjust to it. Stress inoculation therapy  teaches the client methods relieving the stress and coping with the flash backs. EMDR has shown very good results in a relatively short period-of-time. It is an eight-phase treatment involving lateral eye movement while the client holds different aspects of the event in his mind.

   If you or a friend suffers from PTSD it is important that you get professional help.

Additional information can be found at PTSD Alliance, 1-877-507-7873 or www.ptsdalliance.org. Or by calling Door of Hope at (478) 825-0033.

By Roger Green, Intern