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What is Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder? (PTSD)
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Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is a mental health condition that’s triggered by a terrifying event — either experiencing it or witnessing it. Symptoms may include flashbacks, nightmares, and severe anxiety, as well as uncontrollable thoughts about the event. Most people who go through traumatic events may have temporary difficulty adjusting and coping, but with time and good self-care, they usually get better. If the symptoms get worse, last for months or even years, and interfere with your day-to-day functioning, you may have PTSD.
There are still a lot of people who feel that Post-traumatic stress disorder relates to persons who were involved in combat situations like a war. The truth is that there are a lot of ordinary people who are combating a stressful event that may have happened in their past and left a traumatic scar from such an event. Yes, the brave soldiers who have faced unimaginable situations in the course of keeping us safe. The thought of kill or being killed, the suffering they have seen, the death and bloodshed they have witnessed is something I know I would never be able to get over.
PTSD does not only pick on soldiers, but it also does not make choices for its victims. One day you could be living a beautiful happy life when a certain traumatic event may occur to you or someone you love. An event was so devastating that it may leave a scar on your emotional well-being.
Many years ago I lost my wife and five-year-old daughter in a traffic accident that left me unharmed. A snowplow skidded through a stop sign, separating the car in two pieces. This was something that happened in the 1980s and PTSD was not recognized as it is now.
My feeling was that justice was not served, so I wanted to cause as much pain and suffering to the driver of that snowplow. I am sure he was suffering too, but I wanted to destroy everything he had nevertheless. I started a campaign of destruction to his material belongings. I was sent to jail on several occasions, where I suffered more traumatic events.
I decided alcohol was the next best way to deal with life. This caused many accommodations at mental hospitals, and alcohol rehabilitation centers, and even more jail time.
In an attempt to cope with unpleasant symptoms, many people turn to alcohol or other drugs. Around 50% of males and 25% of females with chronic PTSD have major problems with alcohol and drugs; the figures for Veterans are even higher. The most common problem drug is alcohol but many people also abuse other illicit drugs (for example, marijuana) or prescription medications. Drug and alcohol abuse impairs the person’s ability to function effectively and to relate to other people. It can cause great difficulties in areas such as relationships, work, and finances, and can cause violent behavior.
This kind of behavior lasted for over ten years. I do not know what happened, but I stopped continuing on this self-destructive path. The scars will never go away, I still have nightmares and it is October 2019. I let go and let my Higher Power take over my life. All the anti-depressants and all the therapy just did not work for me. I am sure they helped as I am still alive today. I am scared to get into any relationships, it is my choice.
Sometimes the news can be so depressing, as I still hear of wars, rapes, and murders occurring on a more frequent basis. It is really sad, there are no winners in any of these circumstances.
What is a traumatic event?
Trauma is a very personal thing. What traumatizes one person can be of less significance to others. This variation in peoples’ reactions occurs because of their individual personalities, beliefs, personal values, and previous experiences (especially of other traumatic events in their lives). It also occurs because each person’s experience of the incident is unique. However, in all cases, the individual has experienced a threatening event that has caused him or her to respond with intense fear, helplessness, or horror.
For military veterans, the trauma may relate to direct combat duties, being in a dangerous war zone, or taking part in peacekeeping missions under difficult and stressful conditions. For civilians, the trauma can stem from either man-made events (such as physical or sexual assault, accidents, and witnessing the death or injury of others) or natural disasters (such as fires, earthquakes, floods, and ice storms). There are no hard and fast rules to define trauma.
Post-traumatic stress disorder symptoms may start within one month of a traumatic event, but sometimes symptoms may not appear until years after the event. These symptoms cause significant problems in social or work situations and in relationships. They can also interfere with your ability to go about your normal daily tasks. PTSD symptoms are generally grouped into four types: intrusive memories, avoidance, negative changes in thinking and mood, and changes in physical and emotional reactions. Symptoms can vary over time or vary from person to person.
Symptoms of intrusive memories may include:
- Recurrent, unwanted distressing memories of the traumatic event
- Reliving the traumatic event as if it were happening again (flashbacks)
- Upsetting dreams or nightmares about the traumatic event
- Severe emotional distress or physical reactions to something that reminds you of the traumatic event
Symptoms of avoidance may include:
- Trying to avoid thinking or talking about the traumatic event
- Avoiding places, activities, or people that remind you of the traumatic event
Negative changes in thinking and mood
Symptoms of negative changes in thinking and mood may include:
- Negative thoughts about yourself, other people, or the world
- Hopelessness about the future
- Memory problems, including not remembering important aspects of the traumatic event
- Difficulty maintaining close relationships
- Feeling detached from family and friends
- Lack of interest in activities you once enjoyed
- Difficulty experiencing positive emotions
- Feeling emotionally numb
Changes in physical and emotional reactions
Symptoms of changes in physical and emotional reactions (also called arousal symptoms) may include:
- Being easily startled or frightened
- Being Always on guard for danger
- Self-destructive behavior, such as drinking too much or driving too fast
- Trouble sleeping
- Trouble concentrating
- Irritability, angry outbursts, or aggressive behavior
- Overwhelming guilt or shame
For children 6 years old and younger, signs and symptoms may also include:
- Re-enacting the traumatic event or aspects of the traumatic event through play
- Frightening dreams that may or may not include aspects of the traumatic event
Intensity of symptoms
PTSD symptoms can vary in intensity over time. You may have more PTSD symptoms when you’re stressed in general, or when you come across reminders of what you went through. For example, you may hear a car backfire and relive combat experiences. Or you may see a report on the news about a sexual assault and feel overcome by memories of your own assault.
When to see a doctor
If you have disturbing thoughts and feelings about a traumatic event for more than a month, if they’re severe, or if you feel you’re having trouble getting your life back under control, talk to your doctor or mental health professional. Getting treatment as soon as possible can help prevent PTSD symptoms from getting worse.
When to get emergency help
If you think you may hurt yourself or attempt suicide, call 911 or your local emergency number immediately. If you know someone who’s in danger of attempting suicide or has made a suicide attempt, make sure someone stays with that person to keep him or her safe. Call 911 or your local emergency number immediately. Or, if you can do so safely, take the person to the nearest hospital emergency room.
You can develop post-traumatic stress disorder when you go through, see, or learn about an event involving actual or threatened death, serious injury, or sexual violation. Doctors aren’t sure why some people get PTSD.
As with most mental health problems, PTSD is probably caused by a complex mix of:
- Stressful experiences, including the amount and severity of trauma you’ve gone through in your life
- Inherited mental health risks, such as a family history of anxiety and depression
- Inherited features of your personality — often called your temperament
- The way your brain regulates the chemicals and hormones your body releases in response to stress
People of all ages can have post-traumatic stress disorder.
However, some factors may make you more likely to develop PTSD after a traumatic event, such as:
- Experiencing intense or long-lasting trauma
- Having experienced other trauma earlier in life, such as childhood abuse
- Having a job that increases your risk of being exposed to traumatic events, such as military personnel and first responders
- Having other mental health problems, such as anxiety or depression
- Having problems with substance misuse, such as excess drinking or drug use
- Lacking a good support system of family and friends
- Having blood relatives with mental health problems, including anxiety or depression
Kinds of traumatic events
The most common events leading to the development of PTSD include:
- Combat exposure
- Childhood physical abuse
- Sexual violence
- Physical assault
- Being threatened with a weapon
- An accident
Many other traumatic events also can lead to PTSD, such as fire, natural disaster, mugging, robbery, plane crash, torture, kidnapping, life-threatening medical diagnosis, terrorist attack, and other extreme or life-threatening events.
Post-traumatic stress disorder can disrupt your whole life ― your job, your relationships, your health, and your enjoyment of everyday activities.
Having PTSD may also increase your risk of other mental health problems, such as:
- Depression and anxiety
- Issues with drug or alcohol use
- Eating disorders
- Suicidal thoughts and actions
After surviving a traumatic event, many people have PTSD-like symptoms at first, such as being unable to stop thinking about what’s happened. Fear, anxiety, anger, depression, guilt — all are common reactions to trauma. However, the majority of people exposed to trauma do not develop long-term post-traumatic stress disorder.
Getting timely help and support may prevent normal stress reactions from getting worse and developing into PTSD. This may mean turning to family and friends who will listen and offer comfort. It may mean seeking out a mental health professional for a brief course of therapy. Some people may also find it helpful to turn to their faith community. Support from others also may help prevent you from turning to unhealthy coping methods, such as misuse of alcohol or drugs.
I personally do not agree with the idea that there is the prevention of PTSD. I am not a Doctor, just a simple ordinary person. Please know we are all different, and my statement is not based on any medical facts, just personal experience. The medical facts have been listed throughout this post.
ALWAYS FOLLOW YOUR DOCTORS ORDERS, AND ALWAYS SEEK THEIR ADVICE.
Whether in the military or as a civilian, at some point during our lives, many of us will experience a traumatic event that will challenge our view of the world or ourselves. Depending upon a range of factors, some people’s reactions may last for just a short period, while others may experience more long-lasting effects.
Why some people are affected more than others has no simple answer. In Canada, it is estimated that up to 10% of war zone Veterans—including war-service Veterans and peacekeeping forces—will go on to experience a chronic condition known as post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), while others may experience at least some of the symptoms associated with this condition.
You may realize I live in Canada. If 10% of Canadian war zone Veterans suffer from PTSD, I am fearful to look at the statistics of other countries such as America.
Often people who have experienced trauma have been confronted with their own mortality. Their assumptions and beliefs that the world is safe and fair, that other people are basically good, and that “it won’t happen to me,” may be shattered by the experience. After the event, these people often see danger everywhere and become “tuned in” to threats. As a consequence, they may become jumpy, on edge, and feel constantly on guard. This can lead to being overly alert or watchful and to having problems concentrating (for example, not able to read a book for long, getting only a small amount of work completed in a few hours, and easily distracted). Disturbed sleep is very common.
Anger is often a central feature in PTSD, with sufferers feeling irritable and prone to angry outbursts with themselves, others around them, and the world in general. Many Veterans feel let down, abandoned, and judged by others. They may have a sense of betrayal about the way they were treated by a range of people on their return home or about things that have happened since. These feelings of betrayal often result in bitterness and anger. Some people only express their anger verbally (which can still be very damaging).
Others become physically aggressive and violent to property or people, even to those who are closest to them. Often Veterans feel unable to control their anger. The power of their anger may be frightening for them and they often feel considerable remorse afterward. Such symptoms frequently cause major problems at work, as well as with family and friends.
Thank you for reading,
Your comments are welcome.