Post Traumatic Stress Disorder: What It Is

Post Traumatic Stress Disorder: What It Is

Mothers Matter–Post Traumatic Stress Disorder

When we think of PTSD, we often think about war veterans who have gone through a traumatic experience while defending our country. However, it is not just war veterans who can develop PTSD, but survivors of any traumatic event. Bipolar disorder alone can trigger PTSD because of the severity of the episodes. In fact, if you Google PTSD and go to images, it’s primarily war veterans, but from what I have observed, we don’t seem to talk about it in other instances. In fact, we often treat the traumatic event rather than the PTSD. I couldn’t even find a picture on Creative Commons Flikr that didn’t relate to war veterans and PTSD; thus, the picture on the left is the best example I could find that expresses PTSD outside the PTSD war veterans experience. What war veterans experience during this disorder is often going to be different from what non-war veterans experience.

PTSD is a disorder for those who have experienced any form of trauma, whether it be the episodes of bipolar disorder (or other disorders), spousal abuse, sexual assault, labor and giving birth to a child, surviving a natural disaster, witnessing horrific violence, or any other event that has a severe impact on a person’s psyche. Some people can develop PTSD after the event, some months after it, or even years later.

So why do some people develop PTSD and others who have experienced similar trauma don’t? There doesn’t seem to be much research into this, but PTSD is not genetic like bipolar disorder or something thereof. PTSD may develop in individuals who are more sensitive than others. It may develop in individuals who already have a mental illness. For example, someone who already has an anxiety disorder can be pushed over the edge, as an anxiety disorder often manifests itself again when anti-anxiety meds wear off if it’s chronic anxiety. There may be a personality trait that makes individuals more likely to develop PTSD than others. These are simply my speculations.

What are the symptoms?

  • Intense fear, helplessness, and horror during the traumatic event.
  • Intrusive thoughts or images about the event.
  • Re-living the event or that it’s happening all over again.
  • Triggers that make you remember the event and invoke an intense reaction.
  • Recurrent nightmares or distressing dreams.
  • Avoiding thoughts, feelings, or conversations that remind you of the event.
  • Avoiding activities, people, or places that remind you of the event.
  • Unable to remember something from the traumatic experience.
  • Distance from people or difficulties trusting them.
  • Difficulties experiencing or showing emotions.
  • Feeling your life will never be the same again.
  • Difficulties falling or staying asleep.
  • Irritability or outbursts of anger.
  • Difficulties concentrating.
  • Survivor’s guilt.
  • Being jumpy or easily startled–flinching.
  • Hypervigilance.
  • Symptoms lasting more than a month (this isn’t necessarily an absolute factor, especially if you meet a lot of the criteria above even after a few weeks of the event occurring.)
  • Experiences interfering with normal activities, like work, school, or even social activities.

The good news is that PTSD doesn’t have to last forever. It can be treated over time, then become nonexistent; however, you can relapse. Medication can be effective in treating it, such as anti-depressants. Yet, in people with bipolar disorder, the traumatic event can trigger an episode, and even with medications, PTSD makes it much harder to come out of these episodes. There is also cognitive behavioral therapy. The therapist will help the individual change their thinking about the trauma and and its aftermath. It can include homework assignments, such as listing out what you think trust is. There is also exposure therapy, which helps the patient have less fear about their memories. There is eye movement desensitization and reprocessing. This helps with reaction to trauma. You can go to group therapy as well to be around other people with PTSD so you don’t feel like you’re alone. (Source)

PTSD can affect anyone. If you have PTSD, make certain you have a strong support system. If you know someone who has PTSD, be that person’s support system.