What is Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)?
Due to tragic events in the news, some patients are asking more about PTSD (Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder). When we hear of traumatic events in the news – local or global – we can certainly be impacted. When someone personally experiences or witnesses a traumatic event this can make for an even deeper impact, resulting in PTSD.
What is PTSD?
The National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) has a helpful brochure about PTSD. Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, they explain, is “an anxiety disorder that some people get after seeing or living through a dangerous event. PTSD does not discriminate: any person can suffer from PTSD after experiencing a traumatic event or having a loved one who has experienced a traumatic event. The Boston Marathon bombings and the West, Texas plant explosion definitely fall into the traumatic event category; other examples can include sexual or physical abuse, seeing combat or a car accident or experiencing a sudden, unexpected loss like a tornado destroying the family home. – can also bring about PTSD. Yet another way of getting PTSD is when someone we know or love has been harmed or goes through some type of life-threatening event.
What are the Signs of PTSD?
NIMH explains the signs and symptoms of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder include:
- Re-experiencing or reliving the traumatic event and/or having bad dreams or frightening thoughts.
- Avoidance, – staying away from places, events or objects that are reminders of the experience; feelings of emotional numbness, guilt, depression or worry.
- Being easily startled, feeling tense or on edge.
To some extent, the symptoms described above are perfectly normal to feel right after a traumatic event. The body and the brain work hard to make sense out of what has happened – to file, categorize, and label the experience for the person who went through the ordeal. For many people, this will take a few days or weeks, and the above symptoms will reduce or go away completely. For others, however, the symptoms may persist or get worse. There are also those who feel just fine after the event, but symptoms occur weeks or months after the traumatic event.
How Do You Alleviate Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder?
PTSD is not something to take lightly. If you are experiencing PTSD-type symptoms, here are some ways to help yourself:
- Talk to your health-care provider and let them know what has happened and how you are feeling.
- Consider talking with a mental-health specialist – such as a psychiatrist or a counselor.
- If you are prescribed a medicine, take it only as directed.
- Try to reduce stress by staying active or getting some exercise.
- Readjust priorities and goals to give yourself some extra time to accomplish.
- Eat regular, nutritious meals.
- Reduce or avoid alcohol consumption all together.
- Reach out to family, friends or spiritual mentors for increased support.
Original post date: May, 2013. Revised: March, 2019.
Karen Williams, LIMHP is a Mental Health provider at CHI Health.