Overcome PTSD and Move On with Your Life
After a traumatic experience, it’s normal to feel frightened, sad, anxious, and disconnected. But if the upset doesn’t fade and you feel stuck with a constant sense of danger and painful memories, you may be suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). PTSD can leave you feeling powerless and vulnerable so it’s important to realize that you’re not helpless. There are things you can do to alleviate your PTSD symptoms, reduce anxiety and fear, and take back control of your life.
- People who personally experience the traumatic event
- Those who witness the event
- Those who pick up the pieces afterwards, such as emergency workers
- Friends or family members of those who experienced the trauma
Traumatic events that can cause PTSD include:
PTSD develops differently from person to person. While the symptoms of PTSD most commonly develop in the hours or days following the traumatic event, it can sometimes take weeks, months, or even years before they appear. There are three main types of symptoms:
- Re-experiencing the traumatic event. This may include upsetting memories, flashbacks, and nightmares, as well as feelings of distress or intense physical reactions when reminded of the event (sweating, pounding heart, nausea, for example).
- Avoiding reminders of the trauma. You may try to avoid activities, places or thoughts that remind you of the trauma or be unable to remember important aspects of the event. You may feel detached from others and emotionally numb, or lose interest in activities and life in general, sensing only a limited future for yourself.
- Increased anxiety and emotional arousal. These symptoms include trouble sleeping, irritability or outbursts of anger, difficulty concentrating, feeling jumpy and easily startled, and hypervigilance (on constant “red alert”).
Other common symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)
Symptoms of PTSD in children
In children—especially very young children—the symptoms of PTSD can be different from adults and may include:
- Fear of being separated from parent
- Losing previously-acquired skills (such as toilet training)
- Sleep problems and nightmares
- Somber, compulsive play in which themes or aspects of the trauma are repeated
- New phobias and anxieties that seem unrelated to the trauma (such as a fear of monsters)
- Acting out the trauma through play, stories, or drawings
- Aches and pains with no apparent cause
- Irritability and aggression
PTSD symptoms: How PTSD affects your nervous system
When your sense of safety is shattered by a traumatic event, it’s normal to have bad dreams, feel fearful, and find it difficult to stop thinking about what happened. For most people, these symptoms gradually lift over time. But this normal response to trauma becomes PTSD when the symptoms don’t ease up and your nervous system gets “stuck.”
Your nervous system has three ways of responding to stressful events:
- Social engagement with another person—making eye contact, listening in an attentive way, talking—can quickly calm you down and put the brakes on defensive responses like “fight-or-flight.”
- Mobilization, or fight-or-flight, occurs when social engagement isn’t appropriate and you need to defend yourself or escape the danger of a traumatic event. The heart pounds faster, blood pressure rises, and muscles tighten, increasing your strength and reaction speed. Once the danger has passed, the nervous system calms your body, lowering heart rate and blood pressure, and winding back down to its normal balance.
- Immobilization occurs when you’ve experienced an overwhelming amount of stress in a situation and, while the immediate danger has passed, you find yourself “stuck.” Your nervous system is unable to return to its normal state of balance and you’re unable to move on from the event. This is PTSD.
Call our office for a complimentary consultation at (828) 885-7100