Facts about PTSD

“We have to get there 3 hours early. I have severe PTSD from the last time you made us late!”

There are terms in the mental health space that can be thrown around in everyday speech, so much so that they lose their gravity. Think about the term “obsession”, for example. An obsession is an actual condition. It can be measured and it has characteristics. You technically could be obsessed with the new flavor of Red Bull, but you likely aren’t. 

This happens for innocent enough reasons, but the unintentional result is that now obsessions seem less scary and more commonplace than they are. It has begun to happen with the term PTSD. 

This coupled with the fact that those likely to suffer from PTSD are also some of the least likely to feel comfortable, or safe. Asking for help makes this a particularly precarious scenario. 

We here at Greater Houston Counseling Services don’t like precarious scenarios, especially those pertaining to mental health. So given that June is PTSD Awareness Month we’ve made it this blog’s mission to help lay out the FACTS about PTSD.

PTSD, or Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, is a psychiatric disorder that can arise following exposure to traumatic events such as natural disasters, serious accidents, terrorist acts, war/combat, rape, or other violent personal assaults. 

While it’s normal to feel afraid during, and after, a traumatic situation, people with PTSD may feel stressed or frightened even when they are not in danger. PTSD is not limited to direct victims; witnesses and those who learn about the trauma can also develop this disorder.

Common and Less Common Symptoms

The symptoms of PTSD can vary widely, but are generally grouped into four types:

  • Intrusive Memories:
    • Recurrent, unwanted distressing memories of the traumatic event.
    • Flashbacks, or reliving the traumatic event as if it were happening again.
    • Upsetting dreams or nightmares about the traumatic event.
    • Severe emotional distress or physical reactions to something that reminds you of the traumatic event.
  • Avoidance:
    • Trying to avoid thinking or talking about the traumatic event.
    • Avoiding places, activities, or people that remind you of the traumatic event.
  • Negative Changes in Thinking and Mood:
    • Negative thoughts about yourself, other people, or the world.
    • Hopelessness about the future.
    • Memory problems, including not remembering important aspects of the traumatic event.
    • Difficulty maintaining close relationships.
    • Feeling detached from family and friends.
    • Lack of interest in activities you once enjoyed.
    • Difficulty experiencing positive emotions.
    • Feeling emotionally numb.
  • Changes in Physical and Emotional Reactions:
    • Being easily startled or frightened.
    • Always being on guard for danger.
    • Self-destructive behavior, such as drinking too much or driving too fast.
    • Trouble sleeping.
    • Trouble concentrating.
    • Irritability, angry outbursts, or aggressive behavior.
    • Overwhelming guilt or shame.

While these symptoms are the most common, PTSD can also manifest in less obvious ways, such as:

  • Physical symptoms like chronic pain, headaches, stomach issues, or other unexplained physical problems.
  • Emotional symptoms like feelings of guilt or shame, even when the individual knows logically they are not to blame.
  • Cognitive symptoms such as difficulties with memory, problem-solving, or other cognitive functions.

Duration of PTSD

PTSD symptoms can start within one month of a traumatic event, but sometimes symptoms may not appear until years after the event. The symptoms must last more than a month and be severe enough to interfere with relationships or work to be considered PTSD. 

While some people recover within six months, others may have symptoms that last much longer. In some cases, the condition becomes chronic or even lifelong.

Treatment Options

Fortunately, PTSD is treatable, and several effective therapies can help manage the symptoms:

  • Psychotherapy:
    • Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT): This form of therapy helps individuals challenge and change unhelpful thoughts and behaviors related to the trauma.
    • Exposure Therapy: This involves safely exposing individuals to trauma-related memories or triggers to help them learn to control their responses. (Depending on the cause of your PTSD this may not be feasible or a good idea) 
    • Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR): This therapy involves moving the eyes in a specific way while discussing the trauma, which can help change how you react to the memories of your trauma.
  • Medications:
    • Antidepressants: These can help control PTSD symptoms such as sadness, worry, anger, and feeling numb.
    • Anti-anxiety medications: These can help reduce severe anxiety.
    • Prazosin: This medication can help reduce or suppress nightmares for some people with PTSD.
  • Self-care and Support:
    • Healthy lifestyle choices: Regular physical activity, a healthy diet, and enough sleep can help your overall mood and physical health.
    • Support groups: Sharing your experiences with others who have PTSD can help you feel understood and less isolated.
  • Mindfulness and relaxation techniques: Practices such as meditation and yoga can help you manage stress.

Wrapping it up…

Greater Houston Counseling Services stands committed to providing compassionate care and guiding individuals toward healing. By understanding the symptoms and recognizing the gravity of PTSD, we pave the way for effective treatment and support. 

Recognizing these symptoms in ourselves and/or the ones we love can be an impactful step in the direction of healing. Remember, seeking help is not a sign of weakness but rather a courageous step towards reclaiming control and finding peace. 

Together, we can ensure that no one faces PTSD alone!

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