Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is a psychological disorder that occurs when someone has been through severe trauma. This trauma might be child abuse, rape, a natural disaster, or war. Other types of trauma may also cause PTSD.
Symptoms of PTSD include intrusive memories, nightmares, flashbacks, and hyper vigilance. Depression and anxiety disorders are also common.
Not everyone who survives a trauma develops PTSD. Experts aren’t entirely sure why some people do and others don’t. There are a number of theories about it, though. Some say that some people are predisposed to the condition, just like some people may be predisposed to depression or alcoholism. Others say some people simply have better coping skills than others.
PTSD is more likely to develop in people who do not talk about their trauma, such as adults who were abused as children and had to keep it a secret. That’s why support groups are so helpful for many people with PTSD. They get a chance to talk about the trauma, and they also feel less alone.
Experts agree that people with PTSD should seek treatment for the disorder, but they don’t all agree on the type of treatment that is most effective. Psychotherapy is generally recommended, but there are many different types of therapy.
Some therapists focus on the trauma, encouraging people to talk about it over and over again. Some therapists focus on present day issues, teaching people new coping skills. While talking to someone about the trauma can help, talking about it over and over again can sometimes make symptoms of PTSD worse. A combination of both therapies is probably the most helpful.
Support groups are also very helpful. Being able to share experiences with others is very powerful. It helps to relieve the sense of shame many people with PTSD feel
People with PTSD often suffer from depression and/or anxiety disorders. If that’s the case, medication may be useful. There is no medication to treat PTSD itself, however.
Learning new coping skills to deal with the symptoms of PTSD is crucial. At times the symptoms can seem overwhelming, but there are ways to cope with them.
Many of the symptoms lessen just by talking about them. This is true for intrusive memories, flashbacks, and nightmares. Talking about them gives them less power. Writing about them in a journal can also help.
For sleep problems and nightmares, it may help to leave a small light on at night. Soothing music or nature sounds may also help. You can buy CD’s with all kinds of nature sounds.
For flashbacks, you can use an object to ground you. It usually helps if it’s an item you didn’t have during the trauma. For some people, a watch or calendar works. By looking at the watch or calendar, you can recognize the fact that the trauma was in the past. Other objects that you can hold can work as well.
It can take some time to learn to use grounding objects to interrupt a flashback. Try practicing outside of a flashback, such as at times you feel a little anxious.
Practicing the coping skills described here can greatly reduce the effects of PTSD. They are not a cure, but something that can bring some relief. And all of them will become more and more useful the more you use them.