Managing Post Traumatic Stress Disorder
Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder or (PTSD) is a persistent mental health condition that involves very intense emotional stress. According to Scott Barbour, “PTSD did not become an official psychiatric diagnosis until 1980 (19). PTSD is a direct result of a traumatic injury or a psychological shock. The most notable effect of PTSD is sleep disturbance, and constant vivid flashbacks of the traumatic event reoccurring. Having PTSD can have a direct effect with everyday activities. PTSD can affect everyone around you to some aspect, including your social and personal life. According to a web article titled “Helping Someone with PTSD” it’s stated that “PTSD can take a heavy toll on relationships. It can be hard to understand your loved one’s behavior why they are less affectionate and more volatile. You might feel as if you’re walking on eggshells or living with a stranger. This is the sad truth about PTSD. As stated in Sovereign Health Group, “Living with PTSD: How to Help Someone You Love Overcome Trauma” “Having PTSD can cause problems with proximity, communication, and trust that may affect one’s behavior and the response one offers in a relationship. It is imperative that people with PTSD get the best possible treatment, so that quality of life can be as enjoyable as possible. There are several methods that help manage PTSD. This is important because not everyone with PTSD suffers with the same stressors. Some people have moderate PTSD, while others have mild PTSD.
It’s typical, someone hears about a combat veteran and the first thing you hear them say is “that person is a nut shell” or “that guy is crazy, is he shell shock? These are the prime misconceptions of PTSD, and it’s heartbreaking. These comments make a person with PTSD (like myself) embarrassed to tell someone about it, and it can make someone shutdown to others. PTSD can be career related. An example of this could be when a soldier has a very demanding job in a stressful combat zone such as Iraq or Afghanistan as an infantry man. This person could have seen a lot of bad things happen to people or had a close death call with severe physical injuries. This person may think that they are okay mentally until they make it back home. That’s when the real war begins. The mental war of PTSD is what I speak of.
While returning home from a combat zone can feel very awarding, one may not notice any signs of PTSD immediately. Suddenly, a person can become haunted with nightmares of the traumatic events he or she endured in combat, making it hard to sleep and even function as a normal person. PTSD has torn apart homes and happy families since before the Vietnam era. PTSD isn’t always career related, someone involved in a fatal car accident can experience PTSD. PTSD affects people differently. Anything traumatic or overwhelmingly shocking can give someone PTSD. According to Becker and Arden, “Trauma can profoundly disrupt your deeply held beliefs about yourself, other people, and the world (201).
The main symptoms that are common with PTSD are flashbacks, feeling as if you are reliving the traumatic events over and over again, nightmares, avoiding situations that remind you of the traumatic event, feeling hyperarousal and avoiding large crowds of people. Most people suffering from PTSD can become easily startled by very loud sounds. According to a webpage article by Tull, PhD Matthew. “Could You Have Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)? It is stated that, “PTSD can be hard 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. According to the online article “Sex and Gender Differences in Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder: An Update” “wemon have a two to three times higher risk of developing PTSD than men. One of my good friends in the military actually committed suicide, because she felt she had no control over her PTSD. Sadly, I know a young woman who was raped by a well trusted noncommissioned officer while serving in the military. Within a story I read by (Fredericks), I discovered how the rape could “affect her PTSD in ways far beyond her encounter” and what I personally thought about it. This was someone she thought she could “respect and trust. (140). Much worse things have happened with soldiers returning home with severe PTSD, while reading a book titled “Fields of Combat” Finley noted the “first military scandal of the post-9/11 occurred in 2002, when four military wives were killed by their husbands in the space of six weeks (101). This was a very alarming awareness of PTSD that actually made it to the media.
I remember coming home from Kandahar, Afghanistan and I was finally so excited to be out of a combat zone. It was a beautiful Saturday afternoon in May, and my family decided to take me to a restaurant called Skids for lunch. Once we had gotten inside and I ordered my food, I didn’t realize there was a birthday party going on for a young girl. The elementary aged kids attending the birthday party were playing with balloon’s when suddenly I heard a loud POP! I immediately jumped out of my seat and ran out the front door of the restaurant while my family sat inside confused about why I ran away. I stayed outside. My mother came outside and told me that one of the kids had accidentally popped a balloon. I remember crying in embarrassment and confusion as to why I reacted this way, continuously asking myself “what is wrong with me? As the months went on I started to realize that I couldn’t get a good night’s rest because I kept being awakened to horrific memories from Afghanistan. After a turmoil of severe panic attacks, I realized that I needed help. I went to see my primary care provider, and that’s when I was referred to a psychotherapist.
According to an article titled “PTSD Statistics” “an estimated 8% of American people have PTSD, which is the equivalency of the amount of people living in Texas. PTSD identification is diagnosable by a psychotherapist. There is a series of questions and analysis that comes with a proper diagnosis. First, the psychotherapist will ask if there is any kind of traumatic event that seems to keep reoccurring within your mind accompanied by the unwanted memories. Second you will be asked if you try to avoid things that directly remind you of the traumatic event. Lastly you will be evaluated on your mood and sleep. If these issues place above a certain number on a scale within a certain number of times a week, one would become diagnosed with PTSD. An example of this would be like if someone who was involved in a bad car accident, so they avoided driving or felt extremely anxious about driving to the point that they had to pull over off the road because they couldn’t continue their trip. Their mood might be depressed and they may become startled at the sound of car tires burning. Worst case scenario, would be that the person would stop driving all together out of fear of being killed in a car wreck. After I survived a plane crash, I decided within myself that I would never fly again. My fear is that if I fly again and the plane crashes, I might not be as fortunate to survive another crash. Although I will continue to fight this battle with my PTSD, I know that this alone is what makes my PTSD diagnosis severe.
It is a fact that one person can be cured all together from PTSD. Properly maintaining PTSD is key to curing this condition of the mind. Some therapist and patients argue that PTSD can go away within a month. It is stated in an online article titled “Living in PTSD Recovery and the Myth of a Cure” that “following a wellness recovery action plan, establishing and keeping a strong support network, avoiding triggers, and understanding that a mental health recovery is a lifelong commitment can aid in a symptom free recovery of PTSD. I personally believe that this all depends on each and everyone’s severity of PTSD. Most people battling this condition will need psychotherapy. If psychotherapy alone won’t combat PTSD, medication will be the next process.
Psychotherapy can be very interesting in curing PTSD. A very popular way of maintaining PTSD is through cognitive therapy. This type of therapy is considered a talk therapy, this is where a psychotherapist listens to a patient and helps them to control and change his or her thinking around the traumatic event. Another good technique that psychotherapists use is exposure therapy. This type of therapy is where a therapist exposes patients to the same memories and terrifying situations that gave them the PTSD, so that they can properly cope with them when faced with them over and over again. This type of therapy is extremely beneficial for backflashes and nightmares. As part of my personal treatment plan I was put into a virtual reality setting of a simulator inside of an artificial airplane. The experience made me feel as if I was inside of an airplane. The whole time my psychotherapist talked to me the whole time in a calm relaxing manner. PTSD can also be maintained through Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing or (EMDR). EMDR is exposure therapy with a few steps of guided eye movement treatments that helps you understand and process traumatic memories and mentally change your reactions to them. Medicine is typically given for PTSD when a patient is still trying to cope with this condition and psychotherapy by itself doesn’t seem to be working. Antidepressant’s are good for this condition because they help keep someone in a positive relaxing mood and helps to lower your anxiety, they are generally used for a short time. Another medication given is called Prazosin. This is what most psychotherapist call the “nightmare medication. Prazosin is considered a minipress, and its usage is good for insomnia caused to horrific nightmares. Although this medication isn’t FDA approved, it has been shown to suppress nightmares. I personally take Prazosin and this medication is highly effective in treating unwanted nightmares due to PTSD.
I must say that the best therapy I have found to be the most effective is my religion and Christianity. According to the web article titled “PTSD: National Center for PTSD” it is stated that “Because spirituality plays such a significant and central role in the lives of many people, it is likely to be affected by trauma, and in turn to affect the survivor’s reaction to the trauma. I have made it a habit to pray to myself every time I feel uneasy, or when I feel myself starting to panic. While reading the online article “4 Truths Church Leaders Should Know About PTSD” it was stated that “trauma may open the door to discussions of deep spiritual issues of faith, belief, purpose, identity, guilt and forgiveness. I know deep in my heart that god is a healer of all things, and him will I trust. While stationed at Ft. Bragg, NC, I actually started a prayer group with my fellow comrades suffering from the effects of PTSD, and it had a very positive outcome. I know that I am on a good road of recovery with the support and therapy that I am currently receiving, and my goal is to help the next person battling PTSD to overcome this mental illness as well.