People process trauma differently. Some people do not suffer ill effects such as PTSD from a traumatic event. People who have been sexually assaulted are more likely to suffer PTSD symptoms than others, including those who experienced the trauma of combat.
The trauma can lead to symptoms such as sleeplessness, anxiety, anger, and violence, flashbacks, and a lower immune system.
The National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) says that 20 percent of veterans who served in Afghanistan and Iraq will develop PTSD, but only half will actually seek treatment. When long term symptoms immediately after the event or months later, they are referred to as post-traumatic stress disorder. A traumatic brain injury can also trigger the symptoms of PTSD.
Barriers to Seeking Help
The assumption that the symptoms will go away: Some people think that the symptoms will just go away on their own, so they ignore them. In actuality their symptoms may continue on for years and become worse over time.
Stigma regarding PTSD: People with PTSD can be helped by various types of treatment, but may be reluctant to seek help. There is a powerful stigma against people with mental illness that keeps people from admitting they are having problems. They fear that people say negative things about them, treat them differently, or will discriminate against them at work.
Isolation: People with PTSD tend to isolate themselves from others and detach themselves from loved ones. They should talk to friends, family, religious leaders, and loved ones about their condition.
People with PTSD will need their support on this journey to combat the possible onset of depression.
One of the greatest factors that prevent the development of PTSD after a trauma is social support. Research shows that social support is a more important resilience tool for women than for men.
Patients may also fear that people will believe that the common myth that people with PTSD are emotionally unstable or dangerous to others.
A lack of knowledge about where to find help: The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs has a list of places where Americans with PTSD can find help on their website. Other countries have similar support systems.
Screening for Mental Health, Inc. has created an online confidential self-assessment tool for the military, their families, and the general pubic. The website also lists resources by states and countries.
Irritability and anger: People with PSTD may experience times of rage and need to take a timeout from the situation. If they give in to anger, they will create more problems for themselves and hinder their recovery. If people with PTSD blowup at others, they need to talk to the victims of their anger and discuss their feelings with medical professionals. Exercise can help diffuse their anger.
Flashbacks: Flashbacks are feelings that the trauma is occurring again. People with PTSD may also relive the trauma in dreams or nightmares. People with PSTD can deal with flashbacks by being aware of their surroundings, moving around, and reminding themselves that this experience is common for people who have experienced trauma. People should tell their doctor or counselor, and someone they trust about what they have experienced.
Difficulty focusing: People with PTSD may need to slow down and divide their to-do lists into smaller, doable tasks. The inability to concentrate may be a sign of depression and should be discussed with a doctor or counselor.
Problems sleeping: Some people with PSTD have a difficult time falling or staying asleep. A regular bedtime is beneficial. People with PTSD should avoid tobacco, caffeine, alcohol or heavy exercise several hours before bedtime. If they are worried, they can do something soothing like reading or drinking a warm drink before returning to bed.
Pleasant activities: Pleasant activities such as art can have a positive effect on people with PTSD. Positive activities can elevate their mood and help them to rebuild their lives. Work can be beneficial by offering opportunities to learn new things, develop relationships with co-workers, and help people with PTSD regain their confidence in themselves. People with PTSD must be careful not to become workaholics and use this as a way to avoid their memories of the trauma.
Relaxation techniques can help such as:
- Stretching, yoga, swimming, muscle relaxation and breathing exercises
- Prayer or medication
- Walking and enjoying nature
- Listening to soothing music
Talking to a doctor or counselor: Talking to a doctor or mental health professional about the trauma and the PTSD symptoms will also help, especially if the symptoms are not lessening with time, are getting worse, or if other coping strategies are not working. A family doctor can refer patients to a specialist in PTSD if needed.
Medication taken under a doctor’s care and therapy can help to reduce anxieties, irritation, and decrease the desire to indulge in substance abuse. Treatment can be effective, even if the trauma occurred a long time ago.
Benefits of Treatment
- Gaining understanding of the traumatic event by talking to a doctor, specialist in PTSD, or counselor
- Learning coping skills in order to deal with negative thinking and emotions
- Regaining relationships with others
- Providing the ability to set reasonable goals for academic or work activities
- Managing depression, anger or other negative emotions
The Road to Healing
Recovery is a process that time. It is normal to continue to respond to the trauma. As people with PTSD begin to heal, they probably will not forget about the traumatic event. They may still have negative feelings such as anxiety, anger, fear, or pain when thinking back. They will, however, have fewer symptoms and will improve over time with proper treatment under a medical professional.
Disclaimer: this article is for information purposes only. People with PTSD should seek the help of a medical professional.