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You Have PTSD-Now What?

Originally published on Medium.com

For some, the diagnosis of post-traumatic stress disorder, or PTSD, can come as a shock. Commonly associated with soldiers returning home from war, many people fail to realize that it can occur in anyone who has suffered a traumatic or dangerous event. Becoming injured, experiencing a near-death event, witnessing someone else being hurt, or childhood trauma are just a few examples of potential causes for PTSD. It is important to remember that no trauma is too small and that every individual handles it differently.

Educate Yourself-What is PTSD?

The typical response to danger is known as ‘flight or fight.’ Fear encourages a person to either run from danger or to defend themselves. After the danger has passed the symptoms of fear usually subside. For some people, however, the symptoms of the trauma linger. Some of the symptoms of PTSD are:

  • Flashbacks: The experience of ‘re-living’ the traumatic event. For some people, this also means through nightmares or persistent nightmares.
  • Hypervigilance: Feeling on edge or as if one must always be looking out for danger. Exaggerated startle response is common.
  • Mood swings: A person who has PTSD may feel a lack of interest in activities and people that they used to enjoy. Irritability, sadness, guilt, or shame are also common emotions.
  • Avoidance: A person with PTSD will work very hard to avoid triggers that remind them of the event.

This includes changing their daily schedule, avoiding certain people, or even avoiding certain sounds.

Symptoms of PTSD will present within three months of the traumatic event but can sometimes take much longer. Anyone suffering from the symptoms listed above should seek the help of a professional to determine a diagnosis.

Seek Treatment

If you have recently been diagnosed with PTSD, it is essential to find a mental health clinician that is familiar with the disorder. Typically, PTSD is managed with a combination of medication and psychotherapy. Typically referred to as cognitive processing therapy, psychotherapy is usually a 12-week series of sessions in which the patient will speak to their therapist about the trauma that occurred and learn about healthy ways in which to move forward. Some techniques the clinician may use are:

  • Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR)
  • Exposure Therapy
  • Stress Inoculation Training

Your provider may also prescribe a medication to help manage your symptoms. Usually, these are SSRIs (selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors) or SNRIs (serotonin-norepinephrine reuptake inhibitors). Benzodiazepines are generally avoided as they are addictive.

Stay Positive

Gone are the days when PTSD became a lifelong illness. Current therapies are proving to be successful, and many people go on to live their lives unaffected by PTSD. Playing a significant role in your recovery is vital. Keep asking questions, keep looking for new methods, and most importantly, take good care of yourself.

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