PTSD – Post Traumatic Stress Disorder
PTSD was once known as “shell shock” or “battle fatigue” and many people still think about combat veterans when they hear the term PTSD or Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. However, PTSD is not limited to combat veterans. It can occur to anyone of any age after experiencing a frightening or violent event. One description of PTSD symptoms is that they are normal reactions to abnormal events. It is normal for us to experience fear, disgust, depression and anxiety after a traumatic event. Sometimes memories of those events can be triggered outside our conscious awareness, by things that seem unrelated and cause us to have feelings, thoughts and behaviors that are difficult to manage. When symptoms become severe or long-lasting, PTSD can be debilitating.
Events that can cause symptoms of PTSD include combat, abuse, assaults/attacks, accidents, painful medical treatment, witnessing violence, seeing or hearing about the violent death of a loved one. During such events, we are likely to feel helpless, out of control, experience terror and/or horror. Not everyone will develop symptoms after a traumatic event.
Symptoms fall into three categories – re-experiencing the event, avoidance of reminders of the event, and hyper-arousal.
Re-experiencing symptoms can include re-living the event through unwanted and repeated thoughts, images, sounds, flashbacks, or dreams. It also can include physical or emotional reactions to reminders of the event.
Avoidance symptoms can include purposely trying not to have thoughts, feelings or memories of the event, forgetting parts of the event, becoming emotionally numb, losing interest in people or activities, and feeling that life will be short.
Hyper-arousal symptoms include feeling tense/ on-edge/ on-guard, being easily startled, difficultly sleeping, difficulty concentrating, and/or anger outbursts.
Among young children, symptoms can also include bedwetting, regressing to younger behaviors he/she had outgrown, acting out the event during play, being anxious or clingy.
Symptoms that occur immediately after a traumatic event may clear up without professional help. Talking with supportive friends and family members, good coping skills, and feeling good about how you were able to act during the event may help prevent the development of PTSD. When symptoms continue, or develop weeks or months after the event, professional help is needed.
Treatment for PTSD can include medication and therapy. Various therapy methods are used to address PTSD. At Family Therapy and Renewal Center, we are prepared to help with PTSD using EMDR (Eye Movement Desensitization & Reprocessing). EMDR is a method that uses rapid eye movement, sound or vibrations to trigger the mind to heal the memories of past events. It is endorsed by the Department of Veterans Affairs, Department of Defense, American Psychiatric Association, World Health Organization and others for the treatment of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. It allows disturbing memories to become less disabling, and is effective for both major traumatic events and also for lesser events that continue to be disturbing.