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This Month In Health
  • Behind the PTSD Curtain
    While most people are able to eventually move on after a terrifying event, others develop a mental health condition known as post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Thankfully, with its recognition as a mental disorder, there are now new and successful ways to treat PTSD. Read >>
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Health and Fitness News

Behind the PTSD Curtain

Unveiling the truth about post-traumatic stress disorder.

Life is never the same after experiencing or witnessing a natural disaster, war, or a serious accident. A single moment of physical or sexual assault, abuse, or violence can likewise change a person’s life forever. While most people are able to eventually move on after a terrifying event, others develop a mental health condition known as post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

In today’s world, you hear a lot about PTSD. While it’s always been around, the condition wasn’t recognized as a diagnosable mental disorder until 1980. Before that it was known as “soldier’s fatigue,” “shell-shock,” or “rape trauma syndrome.” Thankfully, with its recognition as a mental disorder, there are now new and successful ways to treat PTSD.

Four Types

Symptoms of PTSD typically begin within a month of trauma, but may not set in until years later. Regardless of when it sets in, every aspect of life is affected, from work, relationships, health, and the ability to perform simple, everyday tasks.

Within the PTSD spectrum are four types of symptoms: avoidance, intrusive memories, mood and thinking changes, and emotional and physical responses. For PTSD to be diagnosed, an adult will exhibit symptoms in each category. Symptoms may change over time and no two people have the same experience.

A person with avoidance symptoms won’t think or talk about the trauma. He’ll avoid activities, people, or places that have anything to do with the event in an effort to block out the trauma from his mind.

Intrusive memories of the event may keep recurring. This may happen as flashbacks and/or nightmares. These memories bring intense emotional and physical reactions.

PTSD can affect your thoughts and mood. Someone may feel hopeless and depressed when battling PTSD. She may hate herself or others, have memory lapses about the event, and have trouble keeping close relationships with family and friends. Feelings of joy and happiness are a thing of the past.

Other people may become easily frightened or paranoid or have other emotional or physical issues. They may develop self-destructive behaviors, feel an overwhelming sense of guilt, or always be irritable or angry.

Some Do, Some Don’t

Making PTSD more difficult is that it doesn’t always impact everyone who face the same event. While two people may have the same experience, one may get back to normal life in a few days, while the other spirals down into PTSD. Like other mental health conditions, PTSD comes with a complex combination of risk factors.

Whether or not you develop PTSD may depend on how much trauma you’ve suffered throughout your life, a personal or family history of depression or anxiety, the way your brain handles stress, and your personal temperament. People are more likely to get PTSD when trauma is intense or chronic, when they have a substance abuse problem, or if they lack the support of family or friends. It’s estimated that seven percent of the population experiences some sort of PTSD at some point in life, and more women than men are diagnosed with the condition.

Get Help

If you’re living with PTSD, there is help available. And while you may be tempted to wait for symptoms to improve on their own, dealing with any of the symptoms listed above for longer than a month is a sure sign that you need help. Contact your doctor or a mental health counselor trained in treating PTSD immediately.

The sooner you receive treatment, the sooner you can return to normal life.
Treatment typically includes medication and psychotherapy, as well as the support of family and friends. Antidepressants are the go-to medication for treating PTSD, and sleep troubles can also be treated with medication.

Psychotherapy or “talk therapy” can be undergone one-on-one or in a group setting with a counselor. The goal of therapy is to provide education about PTSD, teach relaxation skills and anger management, help affected individuals work through negative feelings, encourage healthy lifestyle habits, and teach healthy responses to PTSD triggers and symptoms.


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