Post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is a common anxiety disorder that is thought to affect more than 7 million adults and around 3.5% of the population of the United States. In the past PTSD was referred to as “battle fatigue” or “shell shock” because of its association with veterans. However, anyone can develop PTSD regardless of their age or whether or not they have been in war. People can develop symptoms of PTSD after experiencing or witnessing a terrifying or life-threatening event. There is no right or wrong way for a person to respond to an intense trauma, but when symptoms interfere with a person’s ability to function long after the dangerous situation has passed it can be time to look for help. There are a number of ways to address PTSD, but for people who find it hard to cope with life and have turned to substance use as a coping mechanism a PTSD treatments center could be helpful.
What is PTSD?
PTSD is a disorder that is caused by exposure to a traumatic event. Often the event is painful or life-threatening and leaves the person who experienced or witnessed it feeling helpless and unable to protect themselves. The exposure to extreme terror sets off a stress reaction within the person’s body which includes symptoms of panic and rushes of adrenaline. After the event has passed the person may continue to experience this stress response whenever they are reminded of their experience. This means that if a person sees, hears, smells, feels, or thinks something that is related to what they experienced they may have a surge of uncontrollable panic. Sometimes there doesn’t have to be a known trigger to cause a reaction like this. Someone who suffers from PTSD may also have a heightened response to any anxiety-inducing stimuli and experience constant worry and anxiety.
Symptoms of PTSD
There are many different symptoms of PTSD. The way that a person responds to a traumatic event and copes with the anxiety of it depends on the individual. However common symptoms of PTSD include: intrusive recurrent memories of the event, flashbacks, nightmares, and severe anxiety or other emotional and physical reactions to reminders of the trauma. People who have PTSD may also try to avoid any people or situations that remind them of their experience and may have a sense of hopelessness or impending doom. Some of the physical symptoms related to the disorder include: being easily startled, feeling constantly tense, substance use, risk-taking behavior, difficulty sleeping, trouble concentrating, irritability, and an overwhelming sense of guilt or shame.
PTSD is a painful disorder. It is hard to live in a state of constant fear or experience uncontrollable reactions to reminders of trauma. Many types of treatment have been developed to help people experiencing these symptoms. One on one and group therapy can sometimes be helpful to individuals because they provide a safe place to talk about events and symptoms and come up with coping skills. Cognitive processing therapy can be used to help a person understand how the trauma has impacted them and respond to life in a new way by changing thought patterns and misguided beliefs. Exposure therapy can help a person reduce the panic sensations they feel in their body in response to reminders of the event by using deep breathing and relaxation. Eye movement desensitization and reprocessing has also been used to reduce anxiety and help people learn to calm their bodies and minds when faced with anxiety-inducing stimuli. If symptoms of PTSD are especially severe and cause a person to act in a self-destructive manner a residential PTSD treatments center may be an option. These centers house patients while incorporating some of the treatment practices listed above.