How to Overcome PTSD

Introduction

PTSD stands for Post-traumatic stress disorder, which is a mental disorder that someone can develop after a significantly traumatic event. Some of these events can include: physical assault, sexual assault, natural disaster, car accident, armed robbery, warfare.

About 6 of every 10 men (or 60%) and 5 of every 10 women (or 50%) experience at least one trauma in their lives. Women are more likely to experience sexual assault and child sexual abuse, whereas men are more likely to experience accidents, physical assault, combat, disaster, or to witness death or injury.

(The following statistics are based on the U.S. population)

About 7 or 8 out of every 100 people (or 7-8% of the population) will have PTSD at some point in their lives. About 8 million adults have PTSD during a given year. This is only a small portion of those who have gone through a trauma.

The latest Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5) groups the symptoms of PTSD under the follow four clusters: re-experiencing, avoidance, negative cognitions and mood, and arousal.

Re-experiencing:

  • Vivid flashbacks, intrusive thoughts or images, nightmares, intense distress at reminders of the trauma, physical sensations (such as pain, sweating, nausea or trembling).

Avoidance:

  • Feeling like you have to keep busy, avoiding anything that reminds you of the trauma, being unable to remember details of what happened, feeling emotionally numb or cut off from your feelings, feeling physically numb or detached from your body, being unable to express affection, using alcohol or drugs to avoid memories.

Negative cognitions and mood:

  • Feeling like you can’t trust anyone, feeling like nowhere is safe, feeling like nobody understands, blaming yourself for what happened, overwhelming feelings of anger, sadness, guilt or shame.

Arousal:

  • Panicking when reminded of the trauma, being easily upset or angry, extreme alertness (also sometimes called ‘hypervigilance’), disturbed sleep or a lack of sleep, irritability or aggressive behaviour, finding it hard to concentrate – including on simple or everyday tasks, being jumpy or easily startled, self-destructive behaviour or recklessness, other symptoms of anxiety.

Tip 1: Know Your Triggers

Triggers are any stimulus that causes your mind or body to recall a previous traumatic experience, which can feel like you are re-experiencing the event that originally caused the trauma. The stimulus may not be frightening or exactly the same as the original cause of trauma. Triggers can come in a variety of forms including: sights, sounds, smells, tastes, textures, people, thoughts, emotions, places, news reports, movies, situations, anniversaries, and words. Traumatic coupling is the process of connecting a traumatic experience to a trauma trigger.

To better understand and manage your triggers, ask reflect on the following questions:

– What trauma(s) have I experienced?

– What are my trigger(s)?

– How do I normally react?

– What are some better ways of coping/reacting in these situations?


Tip 2: Relaxation Techniques

Relaxation techniques are another treatment for PTSD, which can help to reduce anxiety and calm the nervous system. The following list contains several ways of helping to become relaxed, which should ease some of the symptoms of PTSD:

Meditation – Meditation is about training awareness of the mind, and learning to observe your thoughts and feelings in a nonjudgmental way. (Learn more about it here: https://www.headspace.com/meditation-101/what-is-meditation)

Breathing exercises – Breathing exercises are a simple yet effective way of calming both the body and the mind. Try square breathing: 1) Visualise a square 2) Breathe in for 4 seconds picturing one side of the square. 3) Hold your breath for 4 seconds visualising the second side 4) Breathe out over 4 seconds visualising the third side 5) Hold your breath for 4 seconds visualising the fourth side.

Yoga – Yoga is a Hindu spiritual discipline, which includes breath control, meditation ,and adopting certain body postures. It can be used for simple relaxation, but also has numerous health benefits.

Massage – PTSD has shown to be responsive to massage therapy for many patients. Massages can help to alleviate tightness and pain that are felt in the muscles and tissues in the body. Stress and anxiety may also be lessened by loosening things up and creating more flexibility in the patient.

Sleep – Getting enough sleep is important to stay healthy and refreshed. Sleep deprivation can leader to irritability, anger, and moodiness. (Recommend 8 hours).


Tip 3: Exposure Therapy

Exposure therapy is a behaviour therapy sometimes used to treat anxiety disorders, including PTSD. It involves deliberately confronting the source of what causes someone anxiety or fear (if it is safe and reasonable to do so), which often helps to reduce symptoms. Numerous studies have shown the effectiveness of exposure therapy in treatment various disorders including: generalised anxiety disorder, obsessive-compulsive disorder, social anxiety disorder, PTSD and specific phobias.

To make this process easier, you could try systematic desensitization instead, which is a gradual exposure to the source of the fear or anxiety, whilst also incorporating counterconditioning principles including mediation and breathing.

Both exposure therapy and systematic desensitization may be easier if you have a friend, family member, or trained therapist with you to help you overcome your fears. It really depends on the severity of the condition, and what the person feels the most comfortable with.


Quotes

“You are stronger than you know.” ~ Lori Newman

“There are wounds that never show on the body that are deeper and more hurtful than anything that bleeds.” ~ Laurell K. Hamilton

“Forgiveness is giving up the hope that the past could have been any different.” ~ Oprah Winfrey

“PTSD is a whole-body tragedy, an integral human event of enormous proportions with massive repercussions.” ~ Susan Pease Banitt

“It is important for people to know that no matter what lies in their past, they can overcome the dark side and press on to a brighter world.” ~ Dave Pelzer

“Fall down seven times, get up eight.” ~ Japanese proverb (picture)

“Even the darkest night will end and the sun will rise.” ~ Victor Hugo (picture)


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Anxiety: an Overview and Ways to Treat It

Overcoming Depression

Dealing With Defeat

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