Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, or PTSD, is categorized as a mental illness, typically developed by people who have suffered some trauma. For PTSD to be diagnosed, the person must have experienced their symptoms for a month at a minimum. The most common symptom is disturbing feelings over the trauma that the person experienced, making a traumatic event linger long after it is over.
Categories of Symptoms
PTSD has 4 different categories of symptoms:
- When a person has flashbacks, dreams, or even vivid memories of the traumatic event, they are considered to be experiencing Intrusive Thoughts. These flashbacks and dreams can feel so real, that it’s almost like reliving the event.
- People suffering from PTSD may start avoiding places, activities, or even other people that remind of the traumatic event. Some may want to block it out altogether and avoid talking about it, or their feelings. This is known as Avoidant Behavior.
- Negative Thoughts and Feelings include guilt, anger, fear, helplessness, or an inability to trust. These feelings could be turned inward, toward themselves, or towards others.
- A traumatic event can awaken new behaviors such as being aggressive, insomnia, anxiety, or being hyper-vigilant all the time. These Arousal and Reactive Symptoms are pretty telling of PTSD.
Types of PTSD
There are different kinds of PTSD, namely Complex PTSD, and PTSD with Co-occurring Disorders. Complex PTSD has symptoms that are very similar to PTSD, and the main difference between the two is that Complex PTSD shows longer-lasting and more severe symptoms. It is characteristic of those who are the product of an abusive or neglected childhood, those who have suffered domestic abuse (physical or emotional), or those who have lived in areas or have been prisoners of war. Complex PTSD is usually diagnosed due to the ongoing nature of the trauma. It also makes treatment and more complicated.
The focus in treating PTSD is always reducing the symptoms that are being experienced, as well as going deeper to resolve the trauma that was experienced. Psychotherapy, medication, or a combination of the two are the most common methods of treating PTSD. A variety of therapies can be used, such as:
- Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) – recognizing destructive and negative thoughts, and patterns, and changing or replacing them
- Prolonged Exposure Therapy – reliving the traumatic experience in a safe environment, thus helping to confront fears.
- Group Therapy – a safe place to talk to with others who have also experienced some form of trauma.
- Inpatient Therapy – particularly useful for co-occurring disorders.
PTSD is a demanding illness to live with, and it affects all aspects of a person’s life. It is especially challenging when there are so few physical symptoms, so that others may not realize that someone is suffering. Recovering from PTSD is a long term process, with gradual progress over time. If one can stick to it, it is completely possible to recover and live a life free from the unwilling attachment to trauma.
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