Photo via Pixabay by BrookLorin
PTSD, or Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, affects millions of people each year. A PTSD diagnosis usually comes after a stressful event–such as an accident, witnessing a terrorist event or military combat, or enduring abuse–and can wreak havoc on the emotions and mental well-being of an individual and his or her family.
Although most people who live through a particularly traumatic event–a catastrophic flood or a public shooting, for instance–will have immediate feelings of stress and anxiety, PTSD is categorized as feelings of extreme stress that don’t go away after a period of time. It can cause flashbacks to the event, depression, anxiety, and isolation and can lead to substance abuse or suicidal thoughts or actions.
Many individuals diagnosed with PTSD also have a substance abuse problem, and the number is particularly high in veterans; as many as 2 out of 10 individuals who have served in the military and are diagnosed with PTSD are also diagnosed with a substance abuse disorder. The reasons are varied, but for many sufferers, drugs and alcohol seem to lessen the symptoms of PTSD so that they can cope with daily life, sleep, numb themselves to bad memories, and avoid thinking about the event. In reality, however, substances only exacerbate these problems over time and make it more difficult to receive a true diagnosis. They can mask mental health issues and make depression worse, which is dangerous considering depression and suicide are closely linked.
The good news is that PTSD is treatable, and many different methods can be used to help the sufferer find peace. Talk therapy, cognitive behavioral therapy, art therapy, and group therapy are all ways a person diagnosed with PTSD can learn to cope, get healthy, and train their brain to work differently. With cognitive behavioral therapy, a trained professional helps the sufferer learn to recognize thought patterns that trigger negative behaviors and ideas and change them for the better. This is helpful when a PTSD sufferer is living with depression and cannot pull themselves out of a particular path of memory–for example, a war veteran may feel responsible for the deaths of former platoon mates and become randomly overwhelmed with guilt. To counter this, a counselor may help her identify thoughts or objects that trigger her memory over the incident, then train her brain to instead focus on pride for serving her country or accolades she may have received for her service.
With art therapy, the individual learns to use creativity to channel anger, anxiety, stress, and other negative emotions into something positive. Writing, dancing, singing, playing an instrument, painting, and cooking are all examples of activities that have been extremely beneficial for PTSD sufferers.
Sometimes, talking is the best way to get around those negative thought patterns. Keeping all those feelings bottled up can lead to more stress and anxiety, but it’s hard for some individuals to open up, even to friends and family. Guilt, shame, and the stigma that surrounds depression and suicidal thoughts are all strong reasons for not wanting to start a conversation, but it’s important to do just that for recovery’s sake. If speaking to a friend or family member is too much, the sufferer might consider looking into an anonymous online therapy session, group therapy, or a session with a therapist (or clinician) grounded in trauma treatment who can help pinpoint certain feelings and figure out a way to work around them.
It’s important for the sufferer to have a strong support system, especially in the beginning. PTSD does not have a cutoff date; it can last for years and can do lasting damage to the individual. However, having a circle of friends and family who create a feeling of safety and love can do wonders.
In the words of Lisa Love: “Change is possible, no matter what your age or circumstances. You needn’t struggle alone or resign yourself to quiet misery.” If you’re interested in a free consultation for recovery from trauma or PTSD, contact her today.
Julia Merrill is a retired nurse on a mission. She wants to use information to close the gap between medical providers and their patients. She started BefriendYourDoc.org to do just that. The site offers an abundance of information from tips on finding the right medical care to help with dealing with insurance companies to general health and wellness advice and more.