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Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder: Symptoms & Solutions

Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder: Symptoms & Solutions

On 20 Nov 2014, in mental health

According to the National Institute of Mental Health, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) develops after a terrifying event that involves physical harm or threat of physical harm. This can be from direct exposure, witnessing a traumatic event or from someone close to you experiencing a traumatic event. PTSD is classified by mental heath professionals as an anxiety disorder. Those at risk include veterans, victims of crime, kidnap victims and survivors of car accidents, bombings or natural disasters. PTSD affects 7.7 million American adults.

Symptoms of PTSD include: flashbacks (reliving the trauma), feeling numb, having trouble remembering the event, avoiding situations that remind you of the experience and hyperarousal (being easily startled).Changes in the ability to think clearly and focus are common. Children who experience trauma may have these symptoms: bedwetting, acting out, inability to talk and being clingy with parents and caregivers. Not only are the people who are directly involved in the trauma affected, but others can be too. Secondary trauma is described as "the stress resulting from helping or wanting to help a traumatized person." Some occupations at high risk of PTSD include nurses, teachers, veterans, firefighters, journalists and anyone who comes in direct contact with people who are traumatized.

Those who experience secondary trauma have very similar symptoms to those who have had a direct trauma. When secondary trauma is not addressed it can lead to compassion fatigue, burnout, employee turnover and strained relationships at work and at home. There are risk factors that increase the likelihood of developing PTSD, some of which are a history of mental illness or personal trauma, little support, being a women and being abused as a child.

Fortunately there are successful ways of treating PTSD. Self-care such as eating and sleeping well is helpful. It is important to get support from family and friends. Avoiding alcohol and drug use is crucial to recovery. For those who experience symptoms of PTSD lasting longer than two weeks, professional help is advised. Talk therapy, especially cognitive behavioral therapy has been shown to reduce symptoms. Therapy is usually needed for 6-12 months. Group discussions called debriefings give people the opportunity to process what happened with those who have gone through the same experience. Medications such as Zoloft and Paxil can be useful.

For more information on PTSD, consult the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, the National Center for PTSD, the National Association of Mental Illness or BJC EAP.

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