Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is a mental health condition that is an overwhelming response to a traumatically frightening event that you either experienced or witnessed.
PTSD symptoms may start within 1 month of a traumatic experience. For some, symptoms don’t appear until months or years after. This often causes a lot of concern in people- why is this happening now? It’s been so long since it all happened. I should be fine already.
Typically we want to block what had happened to us and just move on. Let’s just put it in the past and forget it even happened. Unfortunately, the brain doesn’t work in that way. Though it may be able to block certain memories for you, the brain will continue to process these thoughts and emotions unconsciously until they are intentionally processed by you.
These unprocessed memories are what cause triggers. A trigger can cause you to relive an experience almost as if it had almost just happened. It’s frightening and debilitating at times. The thoughts and emotions take over your mind, and you start to feel out of control. It’s hard to differentiate between what’s real and what’s not.
To be diagnosed with PTSD, your symptoms must last for more than one month and cause significant distress to your ability to perform daily tasks. Not everyone who experiences trauma develops PTSD. Likewise, not everyone who develops PTSD requires professional treatment.
For some, symptoms may lessen or disappear over time or with the help of their support system. Others, however, may need a little more help unwrapping what had happened to them.
Although it may be scary to revisit past memories, PTSD is treatable. The earlier you seek help, the better your chance of recovery. The longer you wait, the more challenging recovery may be because of the amount of stress you’ve been storing within yourself. Stress causes you to operate in a survival-like state causing much distress on your body and mind.
It won’t be an easy process. I wish I could tell you otherwise. It will be a hard journey. You will revisit old startling memories, and your therapist/psychiatrist will help you reprocess those memories in a safe and productive way. They will also help you identify your triggers, change your negative emotions and beliefs, and help you better self-regulate.
Medication is often integrated into treatment for those who feel deeply disabled by their PTSD symptoms. Medication can help to adjust one’s mood in order to produce the energy one will need to function on a daily basis and begin therapeutic work.
If we were computers, we would simply reboot. Unfortunately, our minds are a lot more complex, and when bad things happen to us, sometimes it changes our code/blueprint. Treatment is necessary to find the changed code and reprogram it so we can begin to heal and live again.
What are the First Warning Signs:
The following symptoms of PTSD are typically grouped into the following three types. Symptoms may vary person-to-person and vary over time.
- Re-experiencing: When you experience debilitating and unwanted intrusive memories that feel as if you are reliving the traumatic event in such ways as through flashbacks, upsetting dreams, nightmares, emotional distress, or intrusive thoughts.
- Avoidance: When you deliberately or subconsciously avoid scenarios and people reminding you of the traumatic event. You present a loss of interest in past enjoyable activities.
- Hyper-arousal: When you feel “on edge” all of the time. You never feel safe and always anticipate danger. This causes changes in physical and emotional reactions, such as being easily startled, trouble sleeping or self-destructive behaviours like drinking too much, getting into provoked fights or driving too fast.
- Intrusive memories
- Negative thinking
- Intrusive thoughts
- Avoiding reminders of the traumatic event(s)
- Easily upset, aggressive behavior
- Easily frightened or startled
- Feeling unsafe and on guard.
- Alterations in cognition and mood: trouble concentrating, negative thoughts and feelings, inability to remember important details of the traumatic event
- Overwhelming feelings of shame or quilt
- Avoidant behaviour
- Reckless and self-destructive behaviors
- Emotional imbalance and reactivity
- Forgetfulness and distorted thoughts
- Anger outbursts
- Panic attacks
- Substance abuse
- Adjustment Disorder
- Reactive Attachment Disorder