Coping with and living with PTSD
WHAT IS PTSD?
Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)
Post-traumatic stress disorder, also known as (PTSD) is an anxiety problem that can affect all aspects of a person’s life, personal, social, and work-life, can be severely disrupted.
Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)
This is an anxiety-driven disorder that can be produced by seeing or experiencing very frightening and stressful events such as:
- Road traffic accidents.
- Physical attacks.
- They are experiencing combat situations.
- Natural disasters like earthquakes and tsunamis.
- The after-effects of working with aid agencies in war-torn countries.
- Being involved in or being near explosions.
- Witnessing people hurt or killed by terror attacks or accidents in real life or on video.
- Experiencing an extreme situation that leaves you feeling helpless.
- Sexual assault.
Psychological trauma can be started by a single event, such as an accident or natural catastrophes, such as an earthquake or tsunami, a violent experience like robbery or rape, or any physical attack, even just the threat of violence can be traumatising and lead to symptoms.
Experiencing trauma can lead to many problems with depression or anxiety-based issues, in some instances developing into a severe condition called Post-traumatic stress disorder, commonly known as PTSD, a detrimental and sometimes lifelong disorder.
PTSD can also develop from experiencing long term unrelenting abuse and stress, such as experiencing frequently intimidating situations. Basically, any long term or short-term situation that is emotionally damaging, fearful or threatening can lead to that person suffering from the effects of trauma.
When people do not cope well
One of the major contributors to developing PTSD is when people experience helplessness in a situation. People do not cope well in situations where they feel helpless, have no control or ability to change or challenge the situation, and leave the person exposed to major psychological injury.
The symptoms can sometimes manifest themselves after a week, month or even years after the event has passed. It can be triggered by a smell sound, similar situations or seeing something that links back to the event. All these traumatic events have one thing in common, the enormous emotional impact that is felt can be emotionally devastating to that person.
post-traumatic effects of trauma
The problems that develop later on is not actual trauma but the post-traumatic effects of the traumatising incident. This can evolve into people developing further problems. The trauma may have passed, but the experience has gone through a psychological and emotional transformation, developing into a disorder developing into many kinds of problems, from panic disorder, social phobias, and other anxiety-motivated responses and PTSD.
Symptoms of truama
People can experience symptoms, such as insomnia and night terrors, sometimes reliving the actual traumatic event through dreams or flashbacks over and over, leaving them feeling anxious and emotionally worn out. They can find it hard to concentrate and often feel helpless and stressed. They can exhibit outbursts of anger and even react violently to stressful situations, emotionally self-medicating using alcohol or drugs or distracting themselves with gambling. This can make it much worse and further complicate their lives.
As people, we are all complex and unique individuals; we all have different strengths and weaknesses, which means we will react to events and situations in our own particular way. It has nothing to do with being weakly minded; many people would have been considered to have been strong-minded and focused who go on to develop PTSD. Why one person seems to suffer from long term consequentness from experiencing a traumatic event when another person does not show any long term issues is still unknown.
Coping with PTSD
Any trauma is always a past experience that is now manifesting and developing into the present day. An event or experience in the persons’ future life may trigger PTSD, or it can start to emerge over time. It could be days, weeks or months, and it can appear gradually or relatively quickly, with the emotional effects becoming more apparent as time goes on.
Some may succeed in pushing or distracting their mind from emotional distress, and they may even have some success in suppressing the event. Sufferers can sometimes start self-medicating by taking drugs or start drinking more as they try to cope, as best they can with the anxiety and emotions involved.
Using alcohol or drugs as a method of coping will start to create even more problems. The substances they are using to alleviate the problem may become a growing issue and add to their difficulties.
Fear responses may be heightened to the point of setting off panic attacks, and feelings of panic can be triggered by sounds and smell or seeing similar events in the media, such as an incident on a TV news program or even while watching a film. Other heightened anxiety responses can appear to impact the person’s quality of life, such as developing a social phobia or any combination of anxiety disorders.
People experiencing elevated PTSD reactions need to understand the dangers of driving or operating equipment where they need to stay aware of their surroundings, to keep themselves and others safe, and in most cases, should refrain from such activities until they are feeling better.
Helping people with this issue has to be measured. At a pace that you control, sound only therapy can positively benefit the experience by creating a more internalised engagement and a safer environment with a more distant interaction built on your terms.
How trauma can manifest itself
- Increased consumption of alcohol or drugs
- Increased risk-taking such as gambling or driving too fast
- An increase or decrease in sexual needs
- Suicidal thoughts
- Outbursts of anger and constant angry responses
- Isolating themselves from friends and family
- Anxiety and panic attacks
- Over or under eating
- Feelings of helplessness or hopelessness
- Low self-esteem and confidence
- Self-destructive behaviour
- Loss of focus and poor memory
Recovering from the effects of trauma
Therapy can be an essential step towards starting or continuing the healing process and may help uncover the best way forward, including tackling anxiety responses with breathing exercises or meditation or reframing, among many other choices.
Remember that starting therapy can be a time full of worry and anxiety. This is normal and expected. There are some ways we can help to reduce anxiety and start the healing process by carefully talking and exploring the events when you are ready to do so.
Recovering from a trauma
Recovering from a traumatic experience will take time; you cannot rush the healing process. Just being able to talk about your thoughts and anxieties in a respectful and safe therapeutic environment can make a big difference to your recovery time. You will need time to understand how the trauma has affected you. Just talking about the experiences may trigger your anxiety. Sometimes therapy is a challenging experience, but with care and a balanced approach, the benefits may be well worth the struggle.
Therapy for PTSD
People having therapy for PTSD may find that in the actual session or between therapy sessions, they can start experiencing high levels of anxiety, start to experience feelings of panic, or notice other ways that the trauma is being expressed emotionally. This can be difficult; as long as the therapist is not pushing and expecting too much, verbalising the experiences can be very helpful and healing. Sometimes just talking about the event can lead to episodes of clarity. It can also lead to important cathartic moments or eventually finding a level of understanding that helps.
Our past influences our future
The past can be very influential in our present-day life, and its effects are difficult, if not impossible, to ignore. Maybe you can’t change the past, but you can moderate its power. Revisiting past traumatic events is a very delicate and challenging endeavour. Still, it is possible to go over the incident and dampen its effects or dispel some of the emotional energy to lower the trauma’s impact or reduce PTSD symptoms.
As a therapist, I have witnessed such remarkable moments in therapy, and I know what is possible. Unfortunately, the only way to find out what is achievable for you is to take that first step and discover what is possible for you with a free session, using just voice or video.