Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) is a stress related disorder, caused by memories of a traumatic event that produce extreme fear. Experiences with accidents, assaults, abuse, death, war and natural disasters are examples of traumatic events.
The brain is unable to process thoughts, feelings and sensory information when the central nervous system is highly aroused. Parts of the event are often forgotten, increasing the sense of confusion and fragmentation. The symptoms may occur months, years even decades after the trauma. It is normal to feel distressed after a traumatic event, the difference is PTSD symptoms are severe (interfering with functioning) and prolonged (persist).
The symptoms include:
- Flashbacks (often described as flashing images from an old projector).
- Efforts to avoid feelings and thoughts that remind you of the traumatic event or that trigger similar feelings.
- Feeling detached or unable to connect with loved ones.
- Depression, hopelessness.
- Feelings of guilt, shame or self-blame for the event.
- Irritability or angry outbursts.
- Hypervigilance (expecting danger).
- Hypersensitivity, including at least two: trouble sleeping, being angry, having difficulty concentrating, easily startled, having a physical reaction (rapid heart rate or breathing, increase in blood pressure).
- Headaches or physical complaints.
- Disrupted sleep, insomnia.
Individuals who experience abuse, violence and those working as first responders have a higher risk for developing PTSD.
Children may develop PTSD symptoms after experiencing a trauma or after being told about it by a caregiver. Children often become more fearful, have angry outbursts, and reenact trauma events during play. Children who experience the prolonged trauma of abuse lack resiliency in developing intimate relationships and taking on adult responsibilities later in life.
Resiliency is described as the ability to bounce back from adversity. Elements that increase resilience include: being able to talk about the experience; understanding people; and seeking help when needed.
Treatment options are available. Recovery is a painful process, but remaining emotionally stuck in the past extracts an even higher cost. If you or someone you know needs additional assistance, feel free to contact Samaritan Counseling Center at 432-563-4144.