Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder

When someone is exposed to a terrifying event or ordeal, it is common to feel an overwhelming sense of anxiety. It is a normal reaction to stressful situations, but for about 8 percent of the population, these feelings become so excessive that eventually they manifest into Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder.

Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, commonly referred to as PTSD, is triggered when someone’s life is threatened or they experience a violent personal or sexual assault, natural disaster, a severe accident, or military combat. Their lives become debilitating when they are exposed to events or objects that are reminiscent of the trauma, which causes flashbacks and nightmares in which they re-live the event.

PTSD is a mental illness that can be developed within days and weeks following the event, or several years later. People who suffered through abuse or other traumatic experiences as a child often create an emotional distance from the event, which leads them to suffer from PTSD as an adult.

Treatment methods vary from person to person, but most find that learning to be present in the moment helps to identify thoughts and emotions that trigger anxiety. They can then learn how to overpower them and begin the healing process. Cognitive Based Therapy or Mindfulness Therapy is both helpful in reducing symptoms, such as intrusive memories and increased emotional distress. Both practices teach people how to manage their symptoms by talking about their feelings of anger, guilt, and fear, while learning to use deep breathing exercises, stress reduction techniques, and meditation as a way to cope.

Although medication can be prescribed, it only masks the illness. Research shows that counseling provides a long-term solution in changing how someone views a traumatic event. Becoming more aware of how they react to stressful situations and replacing negative thoughts with positive ones is vital.

Another research-based treatment is Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR) Therapy. It is effective in helping people who are suffering from major traumas such as sexual or physical assault, combat experiences, accidents, or the sudden death of a loved one. This treatment, fairly new in the world of psychotherapy, monitors eye movements to dampen the power of emotionally charged memories from traumatic events.

If you'd like to talk to someone about post-traumatic stress disorder, please contact us.

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