3 Misconceptions on PTSD
Client: Counseling Centre | Category: Mental Health Self-help | Word Count: 850 | Keywords: PTSD, PTSD Treatment, PTSD Misconceptions
Most people think that only war soldiers or victims of extreme crime experience Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). This stigma and misunderstood prognosis have caused many unsuspecting individuals to go untreated. Truth is, 7.7 million adults are affected by PTSD just in the US, and about 7 or 8 out of every 100 people experience PTSD at some point in their lives. Let’s go deeper into the subject to see if your understanding is correct.
PTSD in a Nutshell
As its name implies, PTSD is a mental condition that can be developed in a person who has experienced or witnessed a traumatic event. It is like a monster that can lay dormant for long periods of time and surface when a trigger awakens symptoms. Unlike a broken arm or a rash, dysfunctions of the mind are usually more difficult to identify.
Fear is an evolutionary survival mechanism. It triggers a fight or flight response as a means of self preservation. This is so you can remove yourself from a threatening situation. People who have PTSD however, may feel terrified or stressed even when they are not in any danger. This is because there is a dysregulation in their response system that bypasses voluntary thought processes. This can be significantly debilitating to your daily life and can cause you to develop anxiety, depression or substance abuse.
Myth #1: I did not go to war; neither am I a trauma survivor. Therefore, I can’t possibly have PTSD right?
This is not necessarily true. The mind processes trauma in different ways. Sometimes, factors such as long term emotional or physical abuse that might be dismissed as part of a normal childhood can be developed into PTSD as an adult. Not everyone who experienced childhood abuse or neglect develop PTSD, but it is definitely a possibility.
Myth #2: I’ve experienced a traumatic event long ago and have physically healed and moved on. It can’t possibly be PTSD, right?
While symptoms can occur within the first couple of months after a traumatic event, sometimes they can surface or resurface months or even years later. In some, symptoms may come and go throughout the years. Such is more commonly seen in individuals of childhood abuse. Because of the substantial amount of time that may have passed, people with PTSD might not associate the symptoms with the trauma they have experienced from the past.
Myth #3: I have experienced trauma but I’m just weak. It was not such a big deal; I should just be able to get over it.
Just like diabetes or a bout of food poisoning, PTSD is not a character flaw but an illness. You would not blame yourself for an unavoidable illness, so why be so hard on yourself now? Feeling uncontrollably frustrated with yourself might be a distortion caused by PTSD, as self-blame and guilt are both typically symptoms.
Beginner’s Steps in Coping with PTSD
Whether you or your loved one have PTSD, the most important tool is patience. The brain is a complex organ and as so, healing does not happen overnight. Acceptance that memories of trauma might never completely disappear is also key. Sometimes after months of normality, a simple trigger such as a familiar scent or noise might bring about a cascade of symptoms that might cause a panic attack. This can debilitate and disrupt your daily activities. Here are some beginner steps you can follow in starting your healing journey.
1) Understand PTSD
Knowledge is power. Understanding PTSD signs and symptoms is a good first step you can take to reassuring yourself that what you experiencing is just part of the condition. It will help you to identify the distortions in your thought process during a panic attack and learn the coping mechanisms that can counteract them.
2) Seek PTSD Treatment from a Certified Professional
Seeking PTSD treatment is vital when the condition is severe enough to affect your daily routine. Treatment can involve psychotherapy or medication. Psychotherapy or talk-therapy is aimed at helping you recognize cognitive patterns and negative distortions in your thoughts because of the condition. This will help you cope with the trigger stimuli effectively so you can react rationally. Medications that treat depression are sometimes prescribed to help individual cope with a traumatic event. The best results are however most seen in patients who engage in a combination of both treatments.
3) Learn Relaxation Techniques
Ever heard of mindfulness? It is a technique that can help you ground yourself in reality especially when you feel panic. Focusing on deep breathing can also help you prevent hyperventilation that can make panic worse. Take deep breaths in and out through your mouth slowly with counts of 5.
4) Avoid Alcohol and Drugs
Alcohol and substance abuse can be caused by the changes in brain chemistry of one who has PTSD. Both disorders then feed off each other, causing you to perpetuate in a negative spiral. The addiction is proven to increase difficulties in helping you cope with stress and can intensify PTSD symptoms. Consciously avoiding such addictions with a side of a healthy diet and lifestyle can do wonders in helping in your recovery progress.