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Post-traumatic stress disorder is a psychological reaction that can manifest itself after a traumatic event. An event is considered traumatic if the person experienced, witnessed, or was confronted with an event or events that involved actual or threatened death or serious injury, or a threat to the physical integrity of self or others. The person's response can involve intense fear, helplessness, or horror.
PTSD symptoms are divided into four separate clusters, including:
Re-experiencing, or reliving, the traumatic event includes these symptoms:
Frequently having upsetting thoughts or memories about a traumatic event
Having recurrent nightmares
Acting or feeling as though the traumatic event were happening again, sometimes called a flashback
Having strong feelings of distress when reminded of the traumatic event
Being physically responsive, such as experiencing a surge in your heart rate or sweating, when reminded of the traumatic event
Actively avoiding people, places, or situations that remind you of the traumatic event includes these symptoms:
Making an effort to avoid thoughts, feelings, or conversations about the traumatic event
Making an effort to avoid places or people that remind you of the traumatic event
Making sure you're too busy to have time to think about the traumatic event
Feeling keyed up or on edge, known as hyperarousal, includes these symptoms:
Having a difficult time falling or staying asleep
Feeling more irritable or having outbursts of anger
Having difficulty concentrating
Feeling constantly on guard or like danger is lurking around every corner
Being jumpy or easily startled
4. Negative thoughts and beliefs
Thoughts and feelings about yourself and others may become negative and can include these symptoms:
Having a difficult time remembering important parts of the traumatic event
A loss of interest in important, once positive, activities
Feeling distant from others
Experiencing difficulties having positive feelings, such as happiness or love
Feeling as though your life may be cut short
Many of these symptoms are an extreme version of our body's natural response to stress. Understanding our body's natural response to threat and danger, known as the fight or flight response, can help us better understand the symptoms of PTSD.
To be diagnosed with PTSD, you don't need to have all these symptoms. In fact, rarely does a person with PTSD experience all the symptoms listed above. To receive a diagnosis of PTSD, you only need a certain number of symptoms from each cluster.
Additional requirements for the diagnosis also need to be assessed, such as how you initially responded to the traumatic event, how long you've been experiencing your symptoms, and the extent to which those symptoms interfere with your life.
Coping With Symptoms
The symptoms of PTSD can be difficult to cope with, and as a result, many people with PTSD develop unhealthy coping strategies, such as alcohol or drug abuse or deliberate self-harm. Because of these risks, it's important to develop a number of healthy coping strategies to manage your PTSD symptoms. Coping strategies you can work on incorporating in your life include:
Learning how to cope with anxiety
Finding healthy ways to manage your emotions
Learning how to cope with unpleasant thoughts and memories
Managing sleep problems
Being able to identify and cope with PTSD triggers
Managing flashbacks and dissociation
Getting Treatment Is Important
If you are experiencing symptoms of PTSD, it's important that you get the help you need. Many people have recovered from PTSD through treatment. However, unaddressed symptoms of PTSD can get worse over time and may contribute to the development of other psychological disorders, such as major depression, substance use disorders, eating disorders, or anxiety disorders.
Healing Waters Counselling Studio offers PTSD counselling for individuals and on-site Trauma counselling for families, first responders and businesses.