What is PTSD?
Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is a mental health disorder that begins after a traumatic event. That event may involve a real or perceived threat of injury or death.
This can include:
- a natural disaster like an earthquake or tornado
- military combat
- physical or sexual assault or abuse
- an accident
PTSD can happen to anyone at any age. People with PTSD feel a heightened sense of danger. They may also have abnormal levels of stress hormones, which may set off an overreactive fight-or-flight response. Their natural fight-or-flight response is altered, causing them to feel stressed or fearful, even when they’re safe.
Trauma may cause actual changes to the brain. It occurs as a response to chemical and neuronal changes in the brain after exposure to threatening events.
Most people who experience one of these events have no problems afterward, but a small percentage develop PTSD.
At Soulscape Awakening, we help you to overcome PTSD by releasing the emotional charge around the trauma and reconnecting you to the version of yourself that is unaffected by your history. Taking you beyond mind, body and emotions, to experience and realise your true, authentic nature.
PTSD can disrupt your normal activities and yourability to function. Words, sounds, or situations that remind you of trauma can trigger your symptoms.
Symptoms of PTSD fall into four groups:
- flashbacks where you feel like you relive the event over and over
- vivid, unpleasant memories of the event
- frequent nightmares about the event
- intense mental or physical distress when you think about the event
Avoidance, as the name implies, means avoiding people, places, or situations that remind you of the traumatic event.
Arousal and reactivity
- trouble concentrating
- startling easily and having an exaggerated response when you’re startled
- a constant feeling of being on edge
- bouts of anger
Cognition and mood
- negative thoughts about yourself
- distorted feelings of guilt, worry, or blame
- trouble remembering important parts of the event
- reduced interest in activities you once loved
In addition, people with PTSD may experience depression and panic attacks.
Panic attacks can cause symptoms like:
- a racing or pounding heart
Types of PTSD
PTSD is one condition, but some experts break it down into subtypes depending on a person’s symptoms, also known as condition “specifiers,” to make it easier to diagnose and treat.
- Acute stress disorder (ASD) isn’t PTSD. It’s a cluster of symptoms like anxiety and avoidance that develop within a month after a traumatic event. Many people with ASD go on to develop PTSD.
- Dissociative PTSD is when you detach yourself from the trauma. You feel separated from the event, or like you’re outside of your own body.
- Uncomplicated PTSD is when you have PTSD symptoms like re-experiencing the traumatic event and avoiding people and places related to the trauma, but you don’t have any other mental health issues such as depression. People with the uncomplicated subtype often respond well to treatment.
- Comorbid PTSD involves symptoms of PTSD, along with another mental health disorder like depression, panic disorder, or a substance abuse problem. People with this type get the best results from treating both PTSD and the other mental health issue.
Other specifiers include:
- “With derealization” means a person feels emotionally and physically detached from people and other experiences. They have trouble understanding the realities of their immediate surroundings.
- “With delayed expression” means a person doesn’t meet full PTSD criteria until at least 6 months after the event. Some symptoms may occur immediately but not enough for a full PTSD diagnosis to be made.
Anxiety feels different depending on the person experiencing it. Feelings can range from butterflies in your stomach to a racing heart. You might feel out of control, like there’s a disconnect between your mind and body.
Many of the events that trigger PTSD — like a violent attack or car accident — happen once and are over. Others, like sexual or physical abuse at home, human trafficking, or neglect can continue for many months or years.
Complex PTSDis a separate but related term used to describe the emotional repercussions of continued and long-term trauma, or multiple traumas.
Chronic trauma can cause psychological damage even more severe than that of a single event. It should be noted that considerable debate exists among professionals as to the diagnostic criteria for complex PTSD.
People with the complex type may have other symptoms in addition to the typical PTSD symptoms, such as uncontrollable feelings or negative self-perception.
These two conditions often go hand in hand. Having depression increases your risk for PTSD, and vice versa.
Many of the symptoms overlap, which can make it hard to figure out which one you have. Symptoms common to both PTSD and depression include:
- emotional outbursts
- loss of interest in activities
- trouble sleeping
Some of the same treatments can help with both PTSD and depression.
Certain traumatic events are more likely to trigger PTSD, including:
- military combat
- childhood abuse
- sexual violence
Not everyone who lives through a traumatic experience gets PTSD. You’re more likely to develop the disorder if the trauma was severe or it lasted a long time.
Living with someone with PTSD
PTSD doesn’t only affect the person who has it. Its effects can affect those around them. The anger, fear, or other emotions that people with PTSD are often challenged with can strain even the strongest relationships.
Learning all you can about PTSD can help you be a better advocate and supporter for your loved one. Joining a support group for family members of people living with PTSD can give you access to helpful tips from people who’ve been or are currently in your shoes.
Try to make sure that your loved one is getting proper treatment which can include therapy, medication, or a combination of the two.
Also, try to recognize and accept that living with someone who has PTSD isn’t easy. There are challenges. Reach out for caregiver support if you feel the need to do so. Therapy is available to help you work through your personal challenges like frustration and worry.
PTSD can interfere with every part of your life, including your work and relationships.
It can increase your risk for:
- suicidal thoughts or actions
Some people with PTSD turn to drugs and alcohol to cope with their symptoms. While these methods may temporarily relieve negative feelings, they don’t treat the underlying cause. They can even worsen some symptoms.
If you’ve been using substances to cope, your therapist may recommend a program to reduce your dependence on drugs or alcohol.
Reach out to us at Soulscape Awakening so we can help you to overcome your experience of PTSD and to experience internal harmony and peace again.