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Do you feel depressed, or suicidal? Do you experience intense fear, and helplessness? If so, then there are chances that you might suffer from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). It’s a mental health condition that is triggered by a terrifying event. People who suffer from traumatic events have difficulty adjusting. With time and good self-care, they usually get better. So it is important to keep an eye on the warning signs and symptoms of PTSD to know whether it has affected you or not. So let us study PTSD in detail.
What is Post Traumatic Stress Disorder?
Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is a type of anxiety disorder that can occur after an intense threatening or traumatic event. It is caused by severe trauma which can lead to other disorders that each has its own set of unique causes, characteristics, and symptoms. So let us study PTSD in detail.
What is Post Traumatic Syndrome?
The word “traumatic” in a general sense is used to describe very stressful events in life. Those unwanted events make the person normally feel frightened, sad, anxious and disconnected after a traumatic experience.
PTSD: Indian Scenario
As per the latest report by the World Health Organization (WHO), almost 7.5% of Indians approximately suffer from Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). According to a survey released by the National Institute of Mental Health and Neurosciences (NIMHANS), the incidence of depression is reported in 5% of the population.
PTSD: Males Vs Females
It is estimated that the prevalence of PTSD over the lifespan has been found to be 10% to 12% among women and 5%-6% in men.
Causes of PTSD
Any kind of circumstance that can elicit the signs of fear, shock, horror, or helplessness can cause PTSD. PTSD develops after a traumatic incident. Some of the causes include:
- Loss of a loved one
- Natural disasters
- Serious accidents
- Terrorist attacks
- Rape or other types of abuse
- Personal assault
- Being a victim of crime
Risk Factors Of PTSD
Researchers believe that post-traumatic stress disorder is not caused by one single factor, but a variety of risk factors can predispose the development of PTSD following a traumatic event. Though it is almost difficult to determine the certainty of PTSD after trauma, the following risk factors can be considered that contribute to the probability of developing PTSD.
- Genetic factors: Ongoing research studies are being conducted to explore the genetics in the development of PTSD. The studies reveal genetic influence on the development of mental health conditions such as bipolar disorder and major depressive disorder.
- Social factors: This is one of the critical risk factors. After the traumatic event, the need for safe support resources is crucial to help individuals process their experience in a healthy way and to recuperate hope through protected and safe emotional connections.
- Neurological factors: Studies show that certain areas of the brain that regulate emotions and fear are different from those that do not develop PTSD after a traumatic event.
- Stressed history: A struggling history with a mental health condition preceding the traumatic event can also be a risk factor in the development of PTSD. Studies show that existing mood disorders, anxiety-related disorders, and conduct disorders can also be influential risk factors.
- Other contributing factors: Other than these, life stressors such as divorce, financial constraints, type of trauma, age, work stress, and emotional challenges at school or home, also contribute to the likelihood of PTSD
As time flies following a traumatic event, it is natural to think your mind and body have healed and moved on. However, symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder can appear abruptly or even years later. The symptoms can cause noteworthy problems in your social or work situations and in relationships too. They can also hinder your ability to accomplish your usual day-to-day chores.
Commonly, PTSD symptoms are classified into four types namely; disturbing memories, avoidance, behavior changes, and mood swings. However, these symptoms can differ from person to person over time. If you notice any of the following symptoms, seek proper medical attention for diagnosis.
- Disturbing memories and vivid flashbacks: Memories of the PTSD event/incident can bother you. These may be experienced while you sleep as nightmares or during the day as flashbacks in the form of repetitive and distressing images or sensations. These intruding memories can make you feel anxious, sweating, afraid, guilty, or suspicious. Additionally, the emotions associated with the memories may fall out in the form of chills, headaches, irregular heart palpitations, and panic spells.
- Avoidance: Another key symptom of PTSD is trying to avoid being reminded of the traumatic incident or experience. Avoidance symptoms of PTSD signify a struggle to withdraw from certain conditions that can cause an increase in the distress level of trauma-related symptoms. Most people try to come out of PTSD by trying to push the disturbing memories of the event out of their minds by distracting themselves with work or hobbies.
- Behavioral changes: Commonly called an ‘arousal symptom’, this PTSD symptom can make your feelings and emotions more intense and may make you respond differently than how you normally would. For instance, irrational, angry outbursts are some of the very common changes. Apart from these, feelings of danger and being under attack can interrupt concentration.
- Mood swings and emotional numbness: The PTSD Symptoms can also bring mood changes unrelated to the traumatic event. This can be evident from the activities you usually enjoy may not interest you any longer. You may have feelings of suicide along with some deep feelings of guilt and shame. Further, PTSD symptoms sometimes can also make you feel detached from friends and family, or emotionally numb which can hamper work-related problems and the breakdown of relationships too.
Apart from these, some of the general PTSD symptoms include:
- Mental health problems: depression, anxiety, or phobias
- Self-harming behavior, such as drug misuse or alcohol misuse
- Physical symptoms, such as headaches, dizziness, chest pains, and stomach aches.
- Sidestepping certain events, feelings, thoughts, or places that remind you of the tragedy
- Trouble in memorizing important aspects of a tragic event
Also, read about Some Mental Illnesses in the article Understanding Mental Illness
Treatment for PTSD
The treatment strategy for PTSD includes psychotherapy, medication, or a combination of the two. Since the signs and symptoms of PTSD differ from person to person, there may be a possibility that a treatment may work for one person while it may not work for another.
- Cognitive Behavior Therapy (CBT): One of the most effective treatments of PTSD, both in the short term and the long term is CBT psychotherapy. This therapy is trauma-focused, as it focuses on identifying, understanding, and altering thinking and behavior patterns. CBT treatments traditionally occur over 12 to 16 weeks.
- Present Centered Therapy (PCT): A type of non-trauma-focused psychotherapy used for treating PTSD is PCT therapy. It centers on the existing issues rather than directly processing the trauma. The therapy also offers psycho-education about the impact of trauma on one’s life as well as teaching problem to overcome and deal with current life stressors.
- Exposure therapy: This treatment of PTSD therapy involves tackling the actual cause of fear in a safe and controlled environment. This ultimately helps the person to have more control over their thoughts.
People with PTSD are mostly under threat due to the imbalance of chemicals called neurotransmitters in the brain. Administration of certain medications helps to stop thinking about and reacting to nightmares and flashbacks. Various types of drugs affect brain chemistry related to fear and anxiety. Doctors usually start treatment by administering:
1. Serotonin-Norepinephrine Reuptake Inhibitors (SNRIs): These medications are considered a first-line treatment for the treatment of anxiety disorders. They increase the levels of the neurotransmitters serotonin and norepinephrine by inhibiting their reabsorption into cells in the brain. Some of the SNRIs include:
- Fluoxetine (Prozac)
- Paroxetine (Paxil)
- Sertraline (Zoloft)
- Venlafaxine (Effexor)
2. Benzodiazepines: Benzodiazepines are frequently used as an add-on treatment for the short-term management of anxiety disorders since are highly effective in promoting relaxation and reducing muscular tension and other physical symptoms of anxiety. However, they are not recommended as a treatment for PTSD.
3. Tricyclic Antidepressants: Many physicians favor tricyclic antidepressants as they help to overcome the symptoms of depression and anxiety. These medications also help improve sleep problems and concentration. Some of them are:
4. Other medications: Other less directly effective yet potentially helpful medications for managing PTSD include:
- Mood stabilizers: like lamotrigine, tiagabine, and Divalproex
- Antipsychotics: like risperidone, olanzapine, quetiapine, aripiprazole, and paliperidone. These are helpful for managing PTSD symptoms when used in combination with an SSRI.
Perhaps, the medications won’t get rid of PTSD symptoms but can make them less intense and more manageable. Indeed they can also help to attain a positive outlook toward life.
A Blood Test For PTSD?
Surprised! But yes, breakthrough research has demonstrated that a group of genetic markers can form the basis for more accurate diagnoses of a blood test for PTSD. By analyzing the biomarker gene expression signatures the researchers have identified certain genes that can help to recognize more symptoms of PTSD and improve the treatment accuracy.
Can PTSD be prevented?
Well; Yes. A good idea to improve immediate physical safety and issues involved in a traumatic event can be resolved by having proper disaster-preparedness training. Such training can offer preventive factors against developing PTSD.
Thus, if you experience any of these Post Traumatic Stress Disorder symptoms for more than a month following a traumatic event, it’s important to seek medical attention or consult the Best Neurologist in India near you or book an appointment with Credihealth. You can easily cope with the condition by following proper treatment, and support and moving ahead in your life.
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