PTSD: Recognize the Signs and Learn How to Overcome It
What is Trauma?
When we undergo something negative, our brains make an adaptive connection to explanatory information to help us turn the experience into something more positive, like a learning experience. This adaptive process is what enables us to“get over” or “work through” our feelings. But when an experience is extremely negative for us, our brains are unable to process those extreme sensations in this healthy, adaptive way. This is what we call being traumatized.
Sometimes people are shy about applying the word “trauma” to their own situations, thinking this is a term better applied to combat veterans or victims of sexual assault. While an unfortunately high percentage of our veterans experience trauma and the resulting post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), the misfortunes of others does not mean that your feelings are invalid. Any experience that makes you to feel alone, afraid, or lacking control can be called traumatic.
PTSD is what happens when those feelings don’t fade after the stressful event. It may not even be an event that you personally experienced, it may be something you witnessed or are dealing with because you had someone close to you experience a traumatic event.
What are the signs of PTSD?
PTSD manifests itself differently, depending on the individual and traumatic event. It may be months, or even years before an individual starts to show symptoms of PTSD, though it is more common for the symptoms to develop within a few days of the event.
Symptoms of PTSD can generally be divided into three categories:
1. Emotional problems. PTSD will usually cause you to feel anxious and emotionally on edge, as if you’re constantly on alert. You may have sudden outbursts of anger or have difficulty sleeping. Many individuals experience feelings of hopelessness, guilt, or even depression. The may turn to substance abuse to numb these painful feelings. Children, in particular, experience PTSD through the development of new phobias that seem unrelated to the event.
2. Re-experiencing. This usually takes the form of nightmares or flashbacks. Anything, verbal or situational that reminds you of the event, or thinking about your memories of the event, may cause you experience intense physical reactions, such as nausea, palpitation or sweating.
3. Avoidance. You may actively avoid places, activities, or have mental blanks regarding parts of the event. Because of this avoidance, or due to intense emotions caused by experiencing the traumatic event, it may be hard for you to connect with others. You may start to feel isolated and emotionally detached.
Start feeling better now
PTSD is hard to deal with in yourself or in a loved one. However, because it is such an unfortunately common occurrence, there has been a great deal of work done helping individuals recover from PTSD. Many people experience positive results through therapy, particularly Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, Somatic Experiencing and Eye-Movement Rapid Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR).
There are also things you can do at home, right now, to start feeling a little better right away.
- Get Moving. We all know about mood-improving endorphins, released when we do exercise. But this is even more important for individuals suffering from PTSD due to the disorder’s effects on the nervous system. When you get up and get moving, especially to do something that moves all parts of your body, like swimming, you give your brain a chance to rest and relax your nervous system.
- Get Outdoors. Being out in nature promotes a sense of inner peace and helps you feel connected to the larger world. Hiking or other outdoor activities, can help you relax and feel less detached. Joining a ski or hiking club is a great way to re-learn how be around people without the heavy burden of maintaining conversation for extended periods of time.
- Breathing Exercises. Relaxation techniques can counter the tension in the body that comes with the emotional tension that usually accompanies PTSD. Meditation or deep breathing can help ease these symptoms.
- Maintain a Healthy Lifestyle. Use of alcohol and drugs may make things better at the moment, but usually worsens the symptoms and adds to other problems in your personal life. Sleep is very important to maintaining your mental health, so if you find it difficult to fall asleep, you can develop a calming bedtime ritual, like drinking warm milk or doing some light reading in bed.
At Eddins Counseling Group in Houston we understand trauma and PTSD and have counselors available specifically trained to treat PTSD. Typically, we use EMDR treatment for PTSD as this is an effective treatment modality. Contact us to find out more about treatment options. To get started now give us a call to schedule an appointment at 832-559-2622 or schedule an appointment online.
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