PTSD, or Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, is a serious mental health condition that impacts around 12 million adults across the United States in a given year, according to the VA. It can cause various symptoms, including nightmares, heightened reactions to stimuli, and increased anxiety or high depression risk. Patients can suffer from various mental and emotional challenges that may impact their ability to interact with friends and loved ones.
What Causes PTSD?
PTSD is caused by either a specific stressful or traumatic event or because of ongoing trauma or abuse. For example, patients may have PTSD because of the following:
- Combat experience
- A serious accident
- Devastating health events
- Natural disasters
- Watching a loved one go through significant trauma
Not everyone who goes through trauma will develop PTSD. In fact, the majority will not. Several factors can increase the risk of developing PTSD, including avoidance-style coping mechanisms, low social support after a traumatic incident, and several personality factors.
People with low IQs and women may also have a greater risk of developing PTSD. Furthermore, patients with a permanent disability, who deal with a great deal of social stress, or who spend a long time in the ICU after a traumatic event are more likely to develop PTSD.
Does PTSD Permanently Affect Mental Health?
PTSD is a deep-level reaction to a traumatic event, and that traumatic event cannot be undone. Symptoms of PTSD generally show up within a few weeks to months of that traumatic circumstance. Often, the brain enters a protective state during the trauma itself, so symptoms may not show up until the immediate trauma has passed. Treatment can decrease the symptoms of PTSD and relieve some of the impact the trauma has on the mind, but generally will not eliminate those symptoms permanently.
Patients with PTSD often note triggers: specific stimuli that may increase the odds of having a trauma-based response. With treatment, many patients can relieve the severity of those triggers and feel more confident about their ability to avoid those devastating reactions.
Furthermore, symptoms may subside for weeks, months, or even years. However, that does not mean that symptoms of PTSD will go away completely. Some symptoms may linger even with successful treatment.
In many cases, patients with PTSD will suffer from increased anxiety. Often, they will feel uncomfortable in situations that remind them of the traumatic event. They may also feel uncomfortable around other people, particularly people with whom they do not feel safe. As a result, they may be more likely to withdraw socially.
Many patients with PTSD suffer from ongoing sleep disturbances, including insomnia. They may have difficulty falling asleep or staying asleep and may have a high risk of suffering from nightmares. Nightmares can cause trauma during the day, making it more challenging to sleep or fall back asleep at night since many patients will try to avoid those nightmares when possible. Sleep disturbances can linger even with treatment and may require medication or further assistance for the patient to learn to manage those symptoms.
Some patients with PTSD will suffer from ongoing chronic pain. In some cases, that pain may result from the traumatic event itself. In other cases, patients with PTSD may have an increased perception of pain. Pain can also serve as a reminder of the traumatic event, which can further worsen symptoms.
Patients with PTSD may have long periods of seeming normalcy, mainly if they can avoid triggers. However, those triggers may still exist and may create unexpected challenges. Patients may not realize what those triggers are until they occur. Loud noises, crowds, or even specific feelings can all increase the risk of a PTSD episode, which may increase anxiety or a higher risk of a flashback.
In some cases, patients with PTSD may choose to avoid certain situations that they feel may trigger symptoms. While symptom management can help reduce triggers, some patients may need to avoid certain situations or stimuli to reduce PTSD symptoms. Patients may subconsciously avoid problems they feel are likely to create those symptoms.
Despite the fact that symptoms of PTSD can linger long after the initial event, with treatment, many patients with PTSD can go on to live full, healthy lives. Proper treatment, including working with a mental health professional and checking in regularly, can prove crucial to ensuring that patients can successfully manage those symptoms.
Does PTSD Have Physical Signs?
The three main symptoms of PTSD include nightmares, flashbacks, and severe anxiety, including anxiety in social settings or settings that remind the patient of the traumatic event. Often, those symptoms are invisible to the people around the patient, who may not realize that anything is going on internally.
However, patients with PTSD may display some distinct signs, which friends and family members may note when they spend time around that patient. Signs may include:
- Greater overall irritability and agitation
- Social withdrawal
- Increased self-destructive behavior
- Loss of interest in previous activities
- Emotional detachment
- Clear signs of guilt
Often, those signs of PTSD can serve as a warning. Friends and family members can offer support for patients with PTSD and encourage them to seek counseling for those symptoms. However, the patient must generally decide to seek treatment and pursue help to get those benefits.
Get Help for PTSD with Acera
At Acera Health, we aim to provide a treatment path that creates a sound mind, body, and soul. We offer several treatment options for patients with PTSD, including residential treatment, outpatient treatment, and intensive treatment programs designed to help alleviate symptoms and make it easier for patients to live the whole, satisfying life they want.
We provide comprehensive PTSD treatment to people struggling with their mental health. Our effective treatment helps people regain their lives and find healthy coping skills to manage their trauma.
Contact us today to learn more about the support we can provide and how we can assist victims of PTSD in processing trauma.