Your New England Ketamine PTSD guide
More than 8 million adults are living with post-traumatic stress disorder. Yes, it's true that post-traumatic stress disorder is commonly seen and studied in populations that have experienced combat-related trauma. However, the condition is not exclusive to combat veterans. Men and women of all ages who have experienced or witnessed trauma are susceptible to post-traumatic stress disorder.
One piece of good news is that post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is finally discussed in mainstream settings. However, many questions remain about the actual PTSD meaning. Adding to the complexity of post-traumatic stress disorder is that it can present in many different ways throughout a person's life. We often refer to a cluster of symptoms when discussing post-traumatic stress disorder. Also, the sources of the condition are vast and broad. You may be wondering if you or someone you care about could be experiencing post-traumatic stress disorder if you see telltale signs of a trauma response. Keep in mind that certain behaviors linked with post-traumatic stress disorder may not appear to have an obvious connection at first glance. However, becoming familiar with the origins, signs and PTSD symptoms can make it easier to put all of the pieces together.
What Is Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder?
It helps to have a concrete understanding of what this severe and life-altering condition entails before focusing on its symptoms. It's important to say that this isn't something that should ever be viewed as a problem that one can "outgrow" our "wait out" until it goes away. What's more, the field of study surrounding post-traumatic stress disorder is still very much in a state of expansion. While we know much more about post-traumatic stress disorder than we did 10 or 20 years ago, there is still much to uncover regarding the origins, symptoms, and treatments.
Post-traumatic stress disorder is a severe mental condition that can develop after experiencing or witnessing shocking, terrifying or dangerous situations or events. It is believed that the "alert response" triggered by trauma may be partly behind the neurochemical changes that contribute to PTSD symptoms. Suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder can be described as having a mind and body that are stuck in a perpetual "danger" setting.
The Fight-or-Flight Connection
We know that the fight-or-flight response is stuck in the "on" setting in people who have post-traumatic stress disorder. As a result, the brain sends stress signals throughout the body, even when no immediate danger is present. This generally includes a stress hormone "cocktail" of adrenaline, norepinephrine and more. This infusion of hormones creates a sensation of panic that often includes an increased heart rate. What's more, someone in a flight-or-flight state may find that many of the brain's normal functions seem to be put on pause. For example, many people find it difficult to access their short-term memories during "episodes." This can add to the feelings of disorientation and dissociation often described by people with post-traumatic stress disorder. Unfortunately, there is substantial evidence to suggest that living with post-traumatic stress disorder for an extended period can alter your brain. For instance, scans have shown that the portions of the brain that handle memory are smaller in many people with PTSD. This is just one of many reasons to seek treatment for PTSD as early as possible.
What Does Life Feel Like With Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder?
Post-traumatic stress disorder can shape the life of a sufferer in nearly every way possible. Many find that the condition disrupts their ability to enjoy life, maintain meaningful relationships or be productive at work or school. For many, flashbacks create severe disruptions in daily life. Others live with constant feelings of anger and guilt. However, the emotional numbness that some sufferers experience can also be just as disruptive as strong emotions.
Some sufferers feel that they must avoid all real or potential reminders of the event or situation that has traumatized them. This can make it impossible for some to see people they love or go places they enjoy out of fear of encountering a dangerous trigger. It can feel like one has to mold their life around what they fear.
Some people who experience or witness traumatic events begin displaying signs of post-traumatic stress disorder immediately. It is typical for symptoms to show up within two to three months following a traumatic event. However, some people who have been through trauma don't begin experiencing symptoms until years after the event. The important thing to know is that there is no "expiration date" for the effects of trauma to cause PTSD.
A Look at Specific PTSD Symptoms
What is PTSD? According to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorder (DSM-IV), there are some concrete symptoms that must be displayed before a diagnosis can be made. Of course, a person may not have all or many of the signs. Here's a list of the most common symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder:
- Difficulty sleeping.
- Increased startle response.
- Intense and distressing memories.
- Avoidance of reminders of trauma through physical avoidance or "escape" tactics (drugs, alcohol or addictive behaviors).
- Physical reactions to being exposed to reminders of a traumatic event.
- Blaming one's self or other people for a trauma.
- A loss of interest in things.
- General negative feelings about the world.
- Memory issues surrounding a traumatic event.
- Trouble with feeling positive.
- Feeling isolated.
- Sleep issues.
- Concentration issues.
- Risky or destructive behaviors.
While there is no official PTSD test, mental health professionals use a diagnostic system to assess patients that begin with a screening. Generally, symptoms must persist for at least a month before a post-traumatic stress disorder diagnosis can be given. Also, health professionals separate symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder into five separate clusters. A person typically needs a certain number of symptoms from each cluster to be present before a full diagnosis is made. The complexity of making a post-traumatic stress disorder diagnosis only highlights just how important it is to connect with a professional when this condition is suspected. It's also crucial for a care provider to rule out other physical or psychological factors that could be contributing to symptoms that may or may not be linked with post-traumatic stress disorder.
Treatments for Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder
Finding a PTSD treatment is never a one-size-fits-all approach. It's essential to work with a care provider to decide on a treatment route that is appropriate and effective. The most common treatments used in PTSD treatment are cognitive behavioral therapy and medications. Therapy is used to help survivors process trauma using healthy, practical tools and coping strategies. Generally, serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) are prescribed to increase serotonin levels as a way to lift feelings of worry or anxiety. It is common for treatment plans to include a mix of both therapy and medication. Also, newer therapies, like eye movement desensitization and neurofeedback, are showing promising results for many. The bottom line is that addressing post-traumatic stress disorder is not something we are meant to do alone. Seeking help from a qualified professional is the first step to treating trauma!