Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)

Post-traumatic stress disorder or PTSD is classified as an anxiety disorder. PTSD occurs after you experience a traumatic event. Those events may have caused intense fear, powerlessness, or horror. Traumatic events may include abuse, rape, natural disaster, war, or accidents. PTSD can also be caused by witnessing a traumatic event such as domestic violence.

If you experience a traumatic event it is typical for it to linger with you. It's common to feel some anxiety or depression after one of these events. However, if the lingering feelings of anxiety stick with you longer than a month and you are having a harder time functioning as well as you were before the event, then you may have developed PTSD. PTSD symptoms can sometimes occur months and even years after the event.

Symptoms of PTSD

The symptoms of PTSD fall into three categories. Those categories are:

  • Re-experience - You suffer from this symptom when you continually relive the experience in some fashion. You may experience flashbacks, hallucinations, or vivid feelings that came up during the original triggering event. You may experience these feelings if you are reminded of the event. 
  • Avoidance - If you are suffering from this symptom you will routinely avoid things and situations that remind you of the event. You not only avoid situations and possibly re-triggering stimuli, but you also avoid people and your own thoughts and emotions. Avoidance symptoms can shut you down from connecting with yourself and who you authentically are. 
  • Increased arousal - Symptoms in this category include irritability, outbursts, becoming very alert or jumpy, being easily startled and having trouble falling asleep. These symptoms make you feel like you are always on edge and hypervigilant or sensitive. 

The urge is to try to self-medicate by bringing yourself down to your typical baseline. It is important that you do not try to do this with drugs or alcohol. That usually creates a strong dependence on the substance that can be hard to quit.

Treatments for PTSD

Exposure therapy is a popular method to treat PTSD. It works by slowly exposing the client to the triggering event, while practicing calming techniques to stay centered and grounded during the anxiety. As you practice with your therapist, you become more skilled at calming yourself down, and eventually the symptoms go away or sometimes they are quickly alleviated.

Cognitive therapy is also helpful in treating PTSD. Cognitive therapy focuses on faulty thought patterns. These thought patterns first existed in order to improve survival but now they are getting in the way of your life. The thoughts must be replaced by more appropriate and healthy thoughts that will not cause any negative symptoms.

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