Every year, the 27th of June is observed as Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder Awareness Day. It was created to recognize and spread awareness of the trauma faced by soldiers at war. However, understanding of mental health disorders has also increased over time. Now, we know that PTSD can be a result of different kinds of traumas and is not experienced by soldiers alone. The scope of this awareness campaign broadened over the years.
What Is PTSD?
Post-traumatic stress disorder or PTSD is a mental health condition that affects people who have experienced or witnessed a traumatic event. It was originally identified in soldiers who experienced trauma at war and was also called shell shock or battle fatigue. However, even regular individuals can suffer from PTSD after terrifying or shocking events, such as the death of a loved one or an incident of abuse.
The PTSD symptoms usually show up within a few months to a few years from the traumatic incident. Patients exhibit excessive fear, anxiety, nervousness, or anger. Some individuals may exhibit guilt too. In many cases, these symptoms go away with time.
However, in the cases of severe PTSD, the symptoms may persist for years without treatment and can hamper the individual’s everyday life. Studies have found that more than 6% of the individuals in the United States suffer from lifetime PTSD. Understanding the symptoms and treatment of this disorder is crucial.
What Are the Causes of PTSD?
PTSD causes include any incident that is terrifying or traumatizing. The condition can affect an individual who has experienced any shockingly painful or saddening event. Here are some of the most common causes of the disorder.
- Accidents – Accidents are unexpected events that often lead to physical injury or even death. These are episodes that we are not mentally prepared for. They can lead to post-traumatic stress disorder in the victims or witnesses of the accident. For example, the survivor of a car crash might exhibit anxiety when traveling in a car or approached by a speeding vehicle.
- Natural Disasters – Natural disasters are yet another class of events that the human mind is usually unprepared for. They could destroy properties, memorabilia, and even lives. The victims of natural disasters such as earthquakes and floods may exhibit PTSD symptoms. These victims may require treatment to recover from the event and its aftermath.
- Unexpected Death of a Loved One – The sudden death of a loved one from an unexpected cause is one of the most traumatizing events anyone can experience. Therefore, a friend or family member of the loved one may suffer from PTSD afterward. Family members who lose a young or healthy relative often need PTSD treatment.
- Physical or Sexual Assault – Any form of physical or sexual assault or even mental abuse can result in PTSD. Victims of abuse not only suffer from the assault itself but also the long-term anxiety caused by PTSD. The path to full recovery may often require PTSD diagnosis and the appropriate treatment.
These PTSD causes are events that alter the individual’s fight or flight response. So, they might begin to exhibit nervousness, fear, or anxiety as a response to everyday sights, sounds, or stimuli. The identification of early symptoms after such incidents can help expedite recovery.
What Are the Common PTSD Symptoms?
One of the aims of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder Awareness Day is to raise awareness of its symptoms. This will encourage faster diagnosis and treatment of patients with PTSD. If you or your loved ones suffer from the following symptoms after a traumatic event, seek help immediately.
- Avoidance – One of the common PTSD symptoms is that of avoidance. This means that the patient will avoid talking about the traumatic event. They may also avoid places, activities, or people who might remind them of the event. Avoidance is a common sign of PTSD and may require medical attention in severe cases.
- Recurrent Memories – Recurring memories, flashbacks, or nightmares of the traumatic event are yet another sign of PTSD. It may also manifest as a violent response to anything that reminds the individual of the incident. This symptom can lead to a quick PTSD diagnosis. So, if a loved one is exhibiting this behavior, encourage them to get help.
- Altered Mood – Pessimism, hopelessness, or detachment may all be PTSD symptoms. If someone you know suddenly seems negative or disinterested after a traumatic event, they may have PTSD. They may also stop mingling with their social circle and may not express themselves as openly as before. This behavioral change may persist for several months after the incident.
- Change in Emotional Reactions – Yet another sign of PTSD is a shift in emotional reactions. This could include unusual fear or insecurity in everyday circumstances. The person can also indulge in self-destructive behavior like excessive smoking or drinking. Moreover, they may have trouble sleeping or concentrating. All these symptoms are signs that the person may require PTSD treatment.
In the absence of prompt help, sometimes PTSD causes suicidal thoughts, which need to be prevented at all costs. Those struggling with the early symptoms require diagnosis and treatment.
This Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder Awareness Day, pay extra attention to those around you who have gone through some trauma lately. If they are exhibiting any of the above symptoms, offer them support and encourage them to get help.
How Is PTSD Diagnosed?
PTSD diagnosis usually takes place at least a month after the traumatic incident. If the symptoms do not subside by this time, the doctor will run a thorough medical history and physical examination. The purpose of this step is to rule out any physical condition that could be causing the symptoms. If no such physical disorders are present, the doctor will suggest you visit a mental health professional.
The psychiatrist or psychologist will record your symptoms and evaluate their severity. If the symptoms continue to impact your daily life after a month from the trauma, the psychiatrist may diagnose you with post-traumatic stress disorder. They will recommend the appropriate treatment as per your symptoms.
On the occasion of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder Awareness Day, we should encourage possible PTSD patients to get themselves diagnosed. After all, diagnosis is the first step to recovery.
What Are the Treatment Options for PTSD?
A motivation behind Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder Awareness Day is to make everyone recognize that the condition is a medical disorder that requires treatment. Also, we should know that this disorder is treatable with prompt and appropriate treatment. Here are the well-known treatment options for PTSD that you can consider.
- Medication – Prescription medication is a common PTSD treatment to address the various symptoms of the disorder. Your psychiatrist may prescribe antidepressants, antipsychotics, and mood stabilizers. They may also recommend Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors that reduce anxiety caused by PTSD. You may also get prescription medicine to help you sleep better.
- Cognitive Behavioral Therapy – Studies have investigated various kinds of psychotherapy that are used to treat PTSD. Cognitive Behavioral Therapy is one form of psychotherapy that has proven to be effective against PTSD. This therapy encourages the individual to react differently to the thoughts related to the trauma. For faster results, you can also combine psychotherapy and medications.
- Exposure Therapy – Exposure therapy is another PTSD treatment that is effective in many cases. In this therapy, the specialist exposes the patient to some of the elements of the traumatic incident in a safe environment. The motive is to desensitize the individual towards these triggers. This will ensure that recurring memories of the trauma won’t impact the patient as drastically.
- Holistic Treatment – After your PTSD diagnosis, you may be looking for natural or holistic therapies for the disorder. Some of these holistic therapies include Yoga, Meditation, Acupuncture, and Massage Therapy. These treatment options may or may not be sufficient on their own to curb your symptoms. However, they can help calm your symptoms alongside psychotherapy or medication.
On Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder Awareness Day, we must spread awareness on the effective treatment for PTSD. It may help someone who is struggling with their trauma alone.
PTSD is a common mental health condition that can affect any individual who has experienced a traumatic event. PTSD causes could range from accident to assault. No trauma is too small or big, and if it has triggered PTSD in your mind, you should not be reluctant to seek treatment.
So, if you or a loved one is struggling to recover from a traumatic event, seek help at the earliest. With the appropriate PTSD treatment, you can get back the quality of life you deserve.
This is the message that needs to reach everyone on Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder Awareness Day so that nobody has to suffer from these symptoms throughout their life.