Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder
Post-traumatic stress disorder, known also as PTSD, is a condition caused by a terrifying life event. While many people may have difficulty coping after a traumatic event, most people will eventually be able to resume their normal lives. Unfortunately, some people may find their symptoms worsen and last for months or years. When this happens it can completely disrupt the life of the individual.
Typically, symptoms of PTSD will develop within three months of the initial event. However, for some individuals symptoms won’t develop for years after the event. There are three main classifications for PTSD symptoms; avoidance and numbing, hyperarousal, and intrusive memories.
- Avoidance and numbing
- Avoids previously enjoyable activities
- Avoids talking about the event
- Avoids thinking about the event
- Difficulty concentrating
- Difficulty maintaining relationships
- Feelings of emotional numbness
- Feelings of hopelessness about the future
- Poor memory
- Self-destructive behavior (such as drug or alcohol abuse)
- Heightened startle reflex
- Auditory or visual hallucinations
- Intrusive Memories
Symptoms may come and go becoming more severe during stressful times or when something reminds the individual of the traumatic event. These symptoms can also be a normal part of the recovery process. However, if the symptoms last for more than a month or are severe in intensity, a healthcare professional should be consulted. In some cases, the symptoms may be severe enough that emergency assistance may be necessary.
Most people are aware of PTSD as it is related to veterans who experienced combat. However, PTSD can be related to any traumatic event that is experienced by any individual. Researchers are not sure why some individuals develop PTSD after an event when others who were present for the same event do not develop PTSD. Most likely it is a combination of factors which may include:
- Chemical and hormonal responses
- Genetic predisposition
- Life experiences
Treatment for PTSD often includes psychotherapy and medication and has a high rate of success overall.
- Antianxiety – These medications can improve overall feelings of stress and anxiety.
- Antidepressants –These medications can improve symptoms of anxiety and depression, and may also alleviate insomnia and improve concentration.
- Antipsychotics – Patients suffering from hallucinations, emotional outbursts, and insomnia may need these types of medications for short periods until other medications and therapies are able to relieve symptoms.
- Prazosin – This medication is not specifically approved for use in the treatment of PTSD by the FDA, but it has been effective in suppressing nightmares in patients suffering from PTSD.
- Behavioral Therapy – The patient is exposed to stimulus that evokes a memory of the event and helps the patient learn to react in a different manner.
- Cognitive Therapy – Talk therapy that helps patients recognize thought patterns that are making recovery difficult; often used with behavioral therapy.
- Exposure Therapy – Similar to behavioral therapy, patients are exposed to the stimulus and given new coping strategies; the new virtual reality exposures have gained popularity in the treatment of veterans.
- EMDR – Eye movement desensitization and reprocessing combines exposure therapy with a program of guided eye movements to assist in the processing of traumatic memories.
All of these therapy options are designed to help patients gain a control over the fear they continue to experience after a traumatic event. They most effective type will vary based on several individual factors.
What methods have you found to be most effective in the treatment of patients with PTSD?