Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) is a paralyzing or numbing fear that happens after someone has witnessed or suffered a traumatic or life-threatening event such as a natural disaster, physical or sexual assault, the death of a loved one, a serious accident, or psychological stress generated by chronic illness. The severity of the PTSD depends more on how the individual processes the event rather than the actual type of trauma, because two people will not respond in the same way.
Another factor that can increase the chances that someone will have PTSD after a disturbing event is their proximity to the trauma. Also, repeated exposure to the trauma will greatly increase the risk of having PTSD. Studies also show that people who experienced emotional, physical or sexual abuse as a child are at much greater risk of suffering from PTSD as adults.
The Anxiety and Depression Association of America states that 7.7 million Americans age 18 and older suffer from Post-Traumatic Stress Syndrome. In addition, women are twice as likely to develop PTSD as men – perhaps because they experience sexual assault more often than men.
Symptoms of PTSD
The symptoms of PTSD parallel those of depression and anxiety, including:
- Lack of energy
- Changes in appetite and/or weight
- Loss of interest in daily activities
- Feelings of hopelessness
- Persistently sad or depressed
- Disassociated or withdrawn
- Worries constantly about death
- Unable to focus or concentrate
- Problems falling or staying asleep
- Hypervigilant or intensely fearful
- Angry outbursts
- Chronic pain or illness
- Suicidal thoughts
Cognitive Behavioral Therapy
Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) is a very effective form of treatment for trauma victims. This can include relaxation techniques, psychological first-aid crisis management, and other special treatments as needed. Individuals are also taught coping skills and how to understand PTSD. Sometimes medication may also be needed to help the person deal with anxiety, depression, or agitation.
Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing
Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR) is a form of therapy that was developed by Francine Shapiro, Ph.D. in 1990. EMDR was initially used to help veterans with Post-Traumatic Stress Disorders (PTSD) with great success, and is now helping millions of people of all ages according to the EMDR International Association.
A therapist may use their finger or hand to trigger side-to-side eye movements, or use musical tones, or tapping of the hand or foot. Of course, that’s just one phase of a multifaceted therapy. Through EMDR, individuals can revisit a painful experience in a kinder, gentler manner without being re-traumatized. This means the patient doesn’t have to talk about the event in order to process them and make room for a happy, productive life.
Seek Professional Help
If you suspect that you or someone you love is suffering from PTSD, please contact a qualified mental health professional who can recommend the best course of treatment after a comprehensive evaluation, and help bring balance back into life. Dr. Susan K Daniel specializes in both EMDR and Cognitive Behavioral Treatment, and can help develop an effective treatment plan.