Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is a disorder that occurs after a severely traumatic event or set of events. Those with PTSD find it difficult to recover after a terrifying event. It can be exhausting and emotionally draining to live with PTSD for the individual and the loved ones around them. However, PTSD can be treatable with the right mental health access and treatment plan. It can take weeks, months, or years to work through certain trauma, but it will be beneficial to improve your quality of life so you can start living the life you want.
What Are the Causes of PTSD?
When people think of PTSD, it is common to think that only those who have been to war or in the military are people who can struggle with it. However, that is an untrue statement. There are many reasons a person can be subject to PTSD, and your struggle is valid no matter the circumstances.
There are many causes of PTSD, from small events to big events. Some of the most common causes are:
- Serious health problem
- The death of someone close to you
- War and conflict
- Exposure to trauma at work
- Physical or sexual assault
- Abuse: physical, mental, emotional
These are just some of the main causes of PTSD. Other things can cause it to happen as well. There is no way to tell if a person will develop PTSD. However, studies show a link between brain changes and those developing PTSD after a terrifying event.
Changes in Brain Chemistry
There have been many studies that show that there are differences in brain chemistry and structure between those who go through traumatic events and end up developing PTSD and those who don’t. At the same time, other studies have not shown a correlation.
In the Journal of Psychiatric Neuroscience and Therapeutics, it is suggested that the hippocampus is significantly smaller in those who have PTSD. Although this has been recognized, it is not clear if the individuals had a smaller hippocampus prior to traumatic events, which is why they developed PTSD after these events, or if they have a smaller hippocampus because of the developed PTSD.
The journal Dialogues in Clinical Neuroscience explains that the brain’s survival mechanism is in a continual loop that causes individuals to be easily triggered. They present with higher adrenaline levels than the average person, which is why many of the symptoms of PTSD are part of the startle response of those with it.
Signs and Symptoms
The signs and symptoms of PTSD can be scary and difficult to deal with, which is why most people need to seek help to manage them. They can reduce your quality of life and make everyday tasks difficult to accomplish.
Some of the most common signs and symptoms of PTSD are:
- Intrusive thoughts
- Mood changes
- Being easily startled
- Feelings of overwhelming guilt or shame
- Uninterested in relationships, careers, or hobbies
- Emotional distress when reminded of the event
- Struggle to concentrate or sleep
- Destructive behaviors like substance use
- Suicidal thoughts or ideations
- Negative beliefs or expectations of oneself, others, or the world
The diagnosis of PTSD usually comes after an unsettling traumatic event. It must be noted that PTSD can come secondhand after learning of a specific event. You may not have witnessed the violent death of a friend, but after hearing about it, you may be triggered and develop PTSD. This is still just as serious and requires treatment.
Treatment options for PTSD can be scary, having to encounter and face the trauma that you have been through. Treatment can be the path to a better quality of life for you and those around you. Some of the most common types of treatment are:
- Cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT): CBT is a treatment that helps change destructive thinking patterns and behavioral patterns. It will help you associate healthy behaviors and responses to negative thoughts. CBT emphasizes helping individuals to respond better to difficult situations.
- Exposure therapy: Exposure therapy is a treatment developed to help people confront their fears. This therapy creates a safe environment to expose themselves to the things they fear and avoid.
- Eye movement desensitization and reprocessing (EMDR): EMDR is a treatment created to lessen the distress accompanied by distressing memories.
- Medication: A variety of medications used to treat depression, anxiety, bipolar, and other disorders can be used to aid in treating PTSD.
With many different treatments available, it is important to work with a therapist to determine which type of treatment is best for you and your situation. Further, it is important to seek professionals that will provide a thorough diagnosis and an individualized treatment plan.
Living a life with PTSD can be challenging for those directly affected by PTSD and their loved ones. PTSD can reduce your quality of life and make everyday tasks challenging. Remember, you are not alone. It is not your fault, and treatment options are available. Here at Acera Health, we take the time to work with you and find the best treatment options. We incorporate conventional and holistic approaches to care to create a plan that is tailored to meet your needs. We want you to get better and be there to help you with the journey. If you are a loved one in need of treatment, don’t wait; get help today. You deserve to live a beautiful and fulfilling life. To find out more about our programs, reach out to Acera Health today by calling us at (949) 647-4090.
Melody is a highly skilled proactive clinical administrator, with more than 17 years of experience serving the community in the behavioral health field.
Her clinical management career started in 2011 as a compliance manager and program director. In 2018, she became an executive as chief clinical officer (CCO). She is a seasoned licensed marriage & family therapist.