Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is unfortunately something that is very prevalent in the society that we live in. This is a condition that comes about when someone has experienced a dangerous or terrifying event that will affect him or her for the rest of his or her life. PTSD is often seen amongst war veterans and there are many soldiers who are involved in the Iraq war who now suffer from PTSD. However this condition does not only affect those who were directly involved in a traumatic experience but can also affect those who may have witnessed it or who knew someone affected by it. This article discusses what PTSD actually is and attempts to teach you ways that you can deal with it.
What is it?
PTSD is an unusual response to a traumatic or dangerous event that you were somehow involved in. Generally it is quite normal to be anxious or frightened after experiencing a troubling event, however if this experience carries on for longer than a month and disturbs your everyday life then you may have PTSD. In most cases symptoms of PTSD come about directly after the troubling incident, however in others they may not come on for several months or even years following the event. Also the event itself that can cause PTSD does not have to be something as scary as being in a war, but may actually be something more minor that just affects that person greatly. Many people who have been involved in traffic accidents or who have lost someone close to them may also suffer from PTSD.
Those with PTSD will most noticeably experience quite vivid flashbacks of the terrible memory that resulted in them getting the condition. Many people describe the flashbacks as if they are experiencing the event again, many of these flashbacks occur in sleep and manifest as nightmares. Most people will avoid all things that remind them of the terrible event, these may even mean that they lose contact with people who were involved and they my avoid visiting places that they associate with the event. Many people with PTSD can get angry quite easily and may be tense, anxious and nervous most of the time, it is very much like their senses are on overdrive. For many people this can create problems with relationships and friends and family may find it difficult being around these people. It is also possible for you to have symptoms of a physical nature in the sense that you may often feel sick, have headaches, feel as though your heart is beating rapidly in your chest and you may sometimes feel dizzy and just want to lie down. It is important to note that many of these things are normal experiences directly following a terrible event, as reacting in this way is a normal human response. However if this does not go away after a short period of time or if you don’t get symptoms for a long period of time following the event then it is most likely that you have PTSD. This is a very hard condition for doctors to be able to diagnose as most people with the condition do not want to talk about the event and this can lead doctors to think that you may be suffering from another condition. While it may be very difficult to talk about it one of the best things that you can do is discuss it with your doctor, as they will be able to get you the necessary help so that you can get on with your life. Many people who suffer from PTSD are diagnosed with depression, as they are not willing to discuss their terrible event with their doctor.
Treatment of PTSD involves a combination of counseling therapy and drug therapy. Most doctors are told that they must first try the counseling option and only resort to drugs if this in not effective. This is good advice as it is vital to avoid drugs wherever possible as they can be addictive and also all drugs have side effects. One of the main forms of counseling treatments is known as cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) and this is used, as it is a relatively short but effective means of treatment. CBT is centered on helping the patient with PTSD understand their feelings and thoughts and aims at teaching them methods for coping with them. It is most common for patients to be offered ten sessions initially and each session generally last for about an hour. CBT has a good research basis behind it that shows it to be an effective form of treatment for PTSD, whereby the patient will suffer from less symptoms or may even recover completely following treatment. Fortunately with this form of treatment there are almost no side effects and CBT has also been shown to be an effective means of PTSD prevention. It is absolutely vital that a patient attends all of the sessions as not completing the course may actually make ones symptoms worse. Another form of counseling based treatment for PTSD is known as eye movement desensitization. This is where the therapist will ask you to remember something about the terrible event that you have been through. During the time that you are asked to remember this event the therapist will make motions in the air that you must follow with your eyes. Research shows that this is effective because when you remember an event whilst you are distracted your memories will be reorganized and the association that you had with that memory may change. This is about as effective as CBT, however it is not offered in as many places.
As mentioned earlier there are also drugs that may help in the treatment of PTSD and in particular the antidepressant medications have been shown to be most effective. Unfortunately every kind of medication is not without its side effects and for this reason doctors will recommend that you have tried some of the other treatments first. Antidepressants work by helping the patient to feel less nervous and anxious. However the research shows conflicting data on the effectiveness of these medications. Antidepressants will not offer you a magic cure overnight and will in most cases take many weeks to reach their full effect. For this reason it is important that you do not give up on this medicine and never stop taking a medicine without first talking to your doctor. Stopping a medicine suddenly will often result in a worsening of symptoms and side effects and in most cases your doctor will want you to come off a medicine slowly, a process known as tapering. There may be tests that are required by your doctor to check for side effects and/or monitor how effective the medicine is for you, however your doctor will talk to you about what is required. It is important to attend all laboratory and doctor appointments while you are taking antidepressants and additional appointments may be necessary when a change to the dose is made and during the initial starting period. Many patients with PTSD also have lots of trouble sleeping and your doctor may prescribe you some medication for this, however this medication is very addictive and it is important to try other methods first.
Once you have overcome the biggest step and discussed your experience with your doctor then you may be well on your way to recovery. Treatment will almost always help you and may allow you to get on with everyday life again. There are many who have a complete recovery within a year of starting treatment, however others may suffer from the condition for life. Symptoms will most likely vary in intensity and sometimes you will feel great while other times you will be miserable. Having treatment is definitely the best option if you suffer from this condition and will in most cases make you feel much better Sometimes just being able to talk to someone about the event is the biggest hurdle and once you have accomplished that then treatment is easy in comparison.