Needless to say, traumatic events don’t always lead to cases of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. But it is helpful for those who have experienced trauma as well as their close circle to recognize the symptoms and signs of PTSD, treatment methods, and how to help.
Trauma can fluctuate in severity and roughly one in three people who undergo traumatic occurrences further experience PTSD.
Nevertheless, despite its more common connection to veterans returning from combat, Post Traumatic Stress Disorder is a condition that can affect anyone who has witnessed life-threatening or life-changing situations.
Understanding PTSD – What It Looks Like?
Post Traumatic Stress Disorder is a condition that afflicts individuals of all ages and from all walks of life. No one is immune to how trauma affects the human brain. Yet, PTSD may mean something different to each person as it can manifest in various ways.
The experience of post-traumatic stress can deviate depending on the trauma that the individual experienced, even signs and symptoms can differ greatly between people. Moreover, in some cases, symptoms can develop almost instantaneously. Yet for others, it can take years for symptoms to manifest and be acknowledged. Furthermore, for many individuals, there’s a postponed onset of symptoms that seem to appear when the brain is no longer as scattered or the person has the time to reflect on what happened.
Ultimately, there’s no clear-cut answer as to why some individuals exhibit PTSD and others don’t. However, a succession of elements may induce the disorder or make people more susceptive to Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, such as:
- Exposure to traumatic events, factors like the amount of traumas endured, and the severity
- Familial medical histories of depression and anxiety
- Level of emotional intelligence and response
- How the brain regulates the chemicals and hormones released in the body in response to stress and trauma
- Professions such as firefighters, nurses, soldiers, EMTs, and law enforcement, expose individuals to more traumatic events than other jobs
How to Recognize Signs of PTSD
It’s completely normal to feel impacted in some way by any traumatic experience. But the difference being is that most PTSD symptoms routinely interfere with an individual’s ability to function and go about their day.
There are numerous symptoms of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder yet these are oftentimes dismissed as something other than PTSD, such as depression. If symptoms worsen, begin to interfere with simple day-to-day activities, and don’t diminish, it might be advantageous to talk to someone about the very real possibility of a PTSD diagnosis.
When analyzing if you or a loved one are living with PTSD, it’s important to recognize that the incipience of symptoms can display at any time, not just directly after facing trauma. Many individuals have described symptoms emerging decades after being exposed to trauma. And while army members are common among PTSD sufferers, women are twice as likely to experience PTSD in comparison to men. This is oftentimes the aftermath of trauma such as domestic violence, rape, or physical abuse.
Although some individuals may be genetically predisposed to post-traumatic stress disorder, it can affect anyone. Moreover, because PTSD has a wide range of symptoms, it’s important to identify that people might only present one of the following signs or all of them.
Each afflicted individual will have a unique experience with PTSD and may show signs of any of the following:
- Intrusive and unwanted memories
- Denial and avoidance
- Negative mood, thoughts, and symptoms of depression
- Alternation in physical and emotional reactions
- Emotional distress
Post Traumatic Stress Disorder symptoms may fluctuate over time. Nevertheless, seeking treatment can help you acknowledge specific triggers, which can assist in managing the emotions that surface. The same applies when considering how to help someone with PTSD.
How to Diagnose PTSD
There are several factors involved in diagnosing Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. Some of these include a psychological and physical evaluation and matching the benchmarks established in DSM-5, a standard practice for psychiatric diagnosis. Some of the factors that are established in the DSM-5 incorporate one or more of the following:
- Firsthand experience of a traumatic incident
- Observing trauma to others
- Discovering that a loved one was endangered or affected by a traumatic experience
- Regular exposure to graphic features of traumatic events. For instance, law enforcement, first responders, soldiers, etc.
Additionally, symptoms of PTSD need to have been ongoing for longer than a month and routinely interfere with the individual’s capacity to cope or perform in regular activities, for a professional diagnosis to be granted.
This methodology of diagnosis can at times complicate people’s ability to seek treatment and help. But, it’s safe to say that as science’s understanding of the brain and trauma evolves so are the once routine standard practices.
Steps You Can Take to Help Someone With PTSD
In addition to an individual receiving medication and attending psychotherapy, it’s helpful to have family members or other loved ones within their close circle involved in the recovery process. Friends and relatives should be taught to identify the symptoms of PTSD so they can better understand and react to what is happening. Moreover, they need to comprehend that PTSD is a treatable disorder so that they can offer support by providing reassurance.
While there’s no one-size-fits-all approach for those experiencing PTSD, many treatment methods have been successful in helping individuals live with more infrequent symptoms enabling them to live happier and healthier lives.
1. Manage potential triggers
The best way to manage the potential effect of these triggers is to be conscious of them. Speak to healthcare professionals and the individual experiencing Post Traumatic Stress Disorder to learn about their unique circumstances. Without forcing that person into talking, kindly prompt them to discuss with you the potentially triggering conditions, so that you can do what’s possible to circumvent the appearance of these situations. A trigger can present in any form, but generally manifests as:
- Smell, sound, or sight linked with the trauma
- Intercommunications with individuals connected to the trauma
- Forms of media such as TV, music, or films that remind the individual of their pain
- Notable dates associated with the trauma
- Societal stresses such as relationships, employment, school, or finances
2. Creating a support network
As with all mental illnesses, one indispensable step to recovery is ensuring that the individual has a strong and compassionate support network. These connections serve as communication points to encourage and support an individual to open up to their loved ones and allow them to better understand their disorder. Put simply, support networks are much more than just safety nets.
A strong support system normally would begin with close friends and relatives who understand the situation well, thus extending to therapists and medical professionals. These support structures have the capacity to help the individual control their stress levels and allow them to live a normal life in spite of their traumatic experiences.
3. Help with finding the right therapist
A truly important, yet often overlooked factor of mental health disorders is finding the right therapist for the individual who is suffering. It’s oftentimes pointless to work with medical professionals who don’t match the patient’s values, or who simply don’t mesh.
When supporting someone who has PTSD, try to make sure that your friend, relative, or partner is able to confide and trust their counselor. And encourage them to find someone they feel can help them learn to cope and manage their disorder.
4. Help them acknowledge and accept their trauma
Often, a key component of dealing with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder is to help the individual brave and evaluate their own traumatic experiences. This exercise should be done with the assistance and guidance of a trained therapist and can be an effective process to understand their traumatic event and overcome it.
This method requires empathetic communication, being prepared to listen, and more importantly than anything else is finding a medical professional with whom the individual feels comfortable.
5. Don’t forget about your own self-care
Lastly, if someone you care about is suffering from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, make sure that you’re not surrendering your own wellbeing for theirs. PTSD is a condition that’s upsetting from both a first and second-hand viewpoint. Ultimately meaning that triggers can seldom be adopted by a person trying to help. That individual’s trauma can provoke another person’s unique trauma to resurface.
Needless to say, that it’s of utmost importance that before supporting your loved ones, make sure that you’re nourishing and taking care of yourself. Be conscious and prioritize your mental state, and then focus on supporting their recovery.
How To Support Someone Close to You With PTSD
When it comes to supporting someone close to you with PTSD, a good place to start is educating yourself on the signs and symptoms of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. That information will help you better understand what your partner, friend, or relative is experiencing and how the traumatic event is influencing their behavior.
Being able to comprehend the motivations behind the presenting emotional distress, anger, and fear can assist you in becoming more compassionate and sympathetic towards the situation of your loved one.
Moreover, another important factor to comprehend when considering how to help someone with PTSD is becoming aware of their triggers and how best to manage them. Have a conversation with them, and find out what they consider to be their triggers – whether it’s certain people, sounds, aromas, memories, or situations – and what you can do to help if the situation should arise. Discuss an action plan so that you understand what to do and how to support them if and when they get triggered.
At times, individuals suffering from PTSD may not want to talk. And instead, they may prefer to simply sit in silence. But when they do talk, it’s important to make sure that you’re listening and assert what they’re saying. Reassure them where you can, ask them how you can be of help, and what they need to feel supported. Furthermore, if you personally feel that they need more help than what you’re able to offer, it may be wise to prompt them to see a professional.
Frequently Asked Questions
Throughout a flashback, individuals often feel a sensation of disassociation, as if they are disconnected from their own body. Undertaking actions to "ground" them in any way will help.
PTSD is divided into four stages: the impact stage, the rescue, the intermediate recovery stage, and the long-term reconstruction stage. The impact stage envelops the initial emotional responses such as fear, guilt, and shock. Whereas post-rescue-stage, the individual commences coming to terms with what's occurred.
Post Traumatic Stress attacks can manifest with physical sensations similar to those of panic attacks. Such as shortness of breath, hot flashes, and heart palpitations. Nevertheless, these attacks are induced by the triggering re-experience of the traumatic incident through thoughts, flashbacks, and dreams.
Supplements that help manage stress can be of great assistance to individuals suffering from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. Decreasing stress levels have been shown to reduce instances of PTSD attacks, for example in a 2009 study, researchers found that individuals suffering from PTSD with lowered cortisol levels showed a decrease in symptoms.
Ingredients like ashwagandha and lemon balm can help support the body’s ability to resist the effects of everyday stress. These compounds can be found in a variety of supplements. For instance, Natrol Relaxia Ultimate Calm is a proprietary blend of herbs specially formulated to help individuals feel calm and balanced throughout the day. Relaxia, like other supplements available on the market, is a drug-free way to reduce occasional stress, anxiety, and tension.
It can be especially distressing to live with a nervous system that feels unruly and disobedient. Yet, humans were designed and can withstand incredibly challenging conditions. With the guidance of a qualified practitioner, trauma survivors can reach their underlying restorative powers, and continue with their lives.
Along with treatment protocols, consider encouraging your relative, partner, or friend to become part of a local support group. There are numerous different types of support groups stationed across the United States. If your loved one is comfortable with the situation, you can always opt to attend the support groups with them.
Post Traumatic Stress Disorder support groups are a great way to build a strong network and interact with other individuals who also live with this condition. It can be emotionally fulfilling for an individual to feel like they have a safe space to listen and share among people who understand and can empathize with having PTSD.