While many people have heard of PTSD, there is still widespread misunderstanding about it and the various ways it can show up in people. We often connect PTSD with flashbacks, but many are unaware of the cognitive symptoms and avoidance behavior that are also prominent for those who live with the disorder.
This article will provide an overview of PTSD, including the four categories of symptoms that characterize the condition and treatment options to help individuals with PTSD heal and improve their quality of life.
What is PTSD?
Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is a mental health disorder that involves distressing symptoms following a traumatic experience. While PTSD is often associated with combat situations, it is important to recognize that it can result from a wide range of events, from sexual assault to an accident or death of a loved one. Symptoms of PTSD typically begin in the months following a life-threatening or stressful event. However, in some cases, they do not emerge until years later.
Not all individuals who experience trauma go on to develop PTSD; in fact, most do not. Studies have shown there is a strong genetic component to PTSD as in other types of mental health disorders such as depression. Various risk factors, such as genetics, having a family history of mental illness, experiencing multiple traumas, and lack of social support, make a person more susceptible to developing PTSD after a traumatic event. There are also protective factors, such as having a strong support system and utilizing healthy coping skills while processing challenging emotions, that can help reduce one’s risk of experiencing PTSD following a trauma.
For more articles and information about PTSD, visit https://www.betterhelp.com/advice/ptsd/.
Recognizing the Signs and Symptoms of PTSD
According to the National Institute of Mental Health, there are four categories of symptoms of PTSD. Learning about the various ways PTSD shows up in individuals can help you recognize signs in yourself or someone you care about. To be diagnosed with PTSD, an individual must experience ongoing symptoms in the following categories:
- Re-experiencing symptoms: experiencing recurring flashbacks or nightmares of the traumatic event, which may be accompanied by physical symptoms of anxiety (such as sweating, racing heart, difficulty breathing, etc.)
- Avoidance symptoms: staying clear of anything that could spur thoughts or memories of the event. These symptoms can be highly disruptive, as some individuals may rearrange their lives to avoid places, people, or situations that could remind them of what they’ve experienced.
- Arousal and reactivity symptoms: persistent feelings of tension or being on edge, which may lead to difficulties concentrating or getting adequate sleep. An individual may also be increasingly irritable or angry or even aggressive towards others. Some people display an increase in risky behavior such as substance use.
- Cognition and mood symptoms: involves distorted thoughts about oneself or the world, ongoing feelings of fear, guilt, or shame, loss of interest in activities once enjoyed and increased isolation from others.
Experiencing these symptoms can make it extremely difficult to carry out daily responsibilities and maintain relationships. If you believe you are experiencing symptoms of PTSD, it is crucial to seek out the support of a mental health professional who can determine if you meet the criteria for the disorder and help you to identify treatment options.
Treatment for PTSD
Treatment is available that has been proven to help individuals with PTSD to process their trauma. One of the most effective types of treatment is Cognitive Behavior Therapy (CBT), which focuses on altering an individual’s thought and behavior patterns. One form of CBT called Cognitive Processing Therapy (CPT) is shown to help individuals identify distorted beliefs they have internalized about themselves and the world as a result of their trauma. They can then move toward finding new ways to think about the trauma that are not rooted in self-blame or shame.
Research has also found another type of CBT, called Prolonged Exposure (PE), to be highly effective in reducing symptoms of PTSD. In this type of therapy, an individual undergoes gradual exposure to feelings, memories, and situations associated with the traumatic event. While avoidance provides short-term relief, it only intensifies fear and discomfort in the long run. With the help of a therapist, a person can confront these triggers, which decreases feelings of distress around them over time. Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR) is another treatment option that has helped many people with PTSD ‘unlock’ their trauma, process it effectively, and experience healing.
If you or someone you know experiences mental health issues, it is important to seek help from a qualified professional. Our Resource Specialist can help you find expert mental health resources to recover in your community. Contact us now for more information on this free service to our users.
About the Author:
This blog post was developed in collaboration with BetterHelp.
BetterHelp is an online portal that provides direct-to-consumer access to mental health services. The online counseling and therapy services are provided through web-based interaction as well as phone and text communication.
May Is Mental Health Month 2022
“Back to Basics”
May is Mental Health Month, a time to spread public awareness and education about mental health disorders and reflect on the impact of mental illness on individuals and their families.
The theme of this year’s Mental Health Month is “Back to Basics.” The goal this May is to provide foundational knowledge about mental health and mental health conditions and spread information about what people can do if their mental health is a cause for concern.
It is also a time to recognize and commit to changing the racial and economic inequities in our health care system, particularly with respect to mental health.
www.rtor.org and Laurel House are committed to the advancement of racial equity and social justice, and to making mental health services accessible to all.
The opinions and views expressed in any guest blog post do not necessarily reflect those of www.rtor.org or its sponsor, Laurel House, Inc. The author and www.rtor.org have no affiliations with any products or services mentioned in the article or linked to therein. Guest Authors may have affiliations to products mentioned or linked to in their author bios.
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