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WHAT IS POST TRAUMATIC STRESS DISORDER?
Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) is a disorder generally caused by a sudden and unexpected event in which an individual often feels fear along with an inability to control the situation. Violence on some level is often involved or some form of violation or victimization is felt. PTSD is usually diagnosed when an individual feels a sustained stress reaction as a result of the event. However a stress reaction for any length of time is very troubling and difficult to handle for most people. Let me emphasize that a stress reaction as a result of one of these events is VERY NORMAL. We speak of these reactions as A NORMAL REACTION TO AN ABNORMAL EVENT.
WHAT IS A STRESS REACTION?
When we are having a stress or crisis reaction we can be expected to experience certain generalized symptoms. Not everyone experiences the same symptoms or the same number of symptoms. There is usually some level of confusion and a loss of a sense of having resources to deal with the feelings. Our normal resources that we have used in the past to feel better are not working. Victims often feel overwhelmed by the intensity and the sheer volume of emotions that are emerging. AGAIN, IT IS ESSENTIAL TO UNDERSTAND THE NORMALCY OF THESE REACTIONS. You are not going crazy, although it may feel that way. Some common symptoms of PTSD include the following:
- Intrusive thoughts & images
- Recurring dreams or nightmares
- Anxiety attacks
- Crying spells & tearfulness
- Feelings of shame or embarrassment
- Guilt feelings
- Withdrawal from others
- Depression-diminished interest
- Feelings of detachment or estrangement from others
- Loss of trust for others
- Confusion, disorientation
- Restricted affect (emotions)
- Avoidance of thoughts of trauma
- No sense of future in life
- Emotional/physical numbness
- A sense of helplessness/loss of control
- Feeling like you need to control everything & everyone
- Difficulty in concentrating
- High startle response
- Somatic complaints such as headaches, muscle tension, nausea, eating, digestive problems
- Difficulty in breathing
- Cold sweats
- Increased alcohol/drug use
What many people do is attempt to ignore or avoid talking about the symptoms in hopes that they will go away. Unfortunately they do not. They will go away much faster and there will be a healthier adjustment to the experience if it is talked about in a safe setting with an experienced clinician or an extremely supportive friend who is non-judgemental and does not offer advice, but instead just listens. This is hard for most people to find so usually either individual or group counseling is recommended.
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