PTSD; Causes, Symptoms, and Treatments
By: Elias Azizi, Contributing Writer
Edited by: Fauzia Haque, Editor; Eve Nevelos, Editor in Chief
Every single person has likely experienced a stressful event at least once in their lives. Whether the experience was a math exam, a minor car accident or even a competitive sports game, everyone faces stressful times. However, these events do not cause PTSD. On the other hand, there are also traumatic events that can cause PTSD. Traumatic events are experiences that cause high levels of stress and anxiety. They usually involve physical, mental, or psychological harm. The Recovery Village reports that around 70% of all adults in the U.S. face at least one traumatic event in their lives. Some traumatic events are so severe that they can cause mental disorders, like post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). PTSD is a mental disorder that develops in individuals who have faced at least one traumatic event. It is often stereotypically associated with soldiers, since many army members who were part of battles develop it. For this reason, many individuals believe that PTSD only affects soldiers and those who were impacted by wars. However, PTSD is not just caused by war. It is important for one to understand the types of events that cause PTSD, as well as its symptoms and treatment in order to be able to potentially help those who develop it.
PTSD can be caused by various traumatic events. As described before, war and conflict are major causes of PTSD. To add on, serious health problems that cause one to be admitted to the intensive care unit (ICU) can also cause PTSD, as the whole experience in the hospital setting can be frightening for some. The loss of a loved one including the loss of a child at birth can also lead to the development of PTSD as deaths can cause severe emotional trauma. Abuse such as sexual and physical assault are also common causes of PTSD. These are just some of many different traumatic events that may lead to the development of PTSD. According to the United Kingdom National Health Services, around 1 in 3 people who face traumatic events develop PTSD. However, the condition is not fully understood yet as continuous research is being done to pinpoint a more precise cause.
The majority of the symptoms of PTSD involve thoughts and feelings that relate to a traumatic event. Based on the Mayo Clinic, a very common symptom of PTSD is recurrent distressing memories from the past. Having flashbacks of the traumatic event is also a symptom of PTSD (reliving the event). One with PTSD may also have intense nightmares of the traumatic events they have faced. PTSD can also cause one to avoid going to certain areas that remind them of that time, often spots where their traumatic events took place. To add on, many emotional symptoms of PTSD are similar to the symptoms of depressive disorders. Things like negative thoughts, hopelessness, and a loss of interest in activities and family are often seen in individuals with PTSD. Any individual who has recently faced a traumatic event and is facing any of these symptoms should contact their physician.
Generally, the two major types of treatments for PTSD are psychotherapy (talk therapy) and medications; sometimes a mix of both or just one treatment may be necessary.
Psychotherapy: Based on the National Institute of Mental Health, psychotherapy involves talking with a mental health professional to treat a mental illness. Psychotherapy is usually one-to-one, but in some cases, psychotherapy is done in groups. During psychotherapy, certain subjects are emphasized. Individuals who suffer from disorders like PTSD will learn about their symptoms, their triggers (what causes the symptoms to take place), and tricks to manage their symptoms. A successful form of psychotherapy is cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT). It is composed of two parts: exposure therapy (the individual faces and understands their fear by slowly exposing them to their trauma) and cognitive restructuring (helps individuals make sense of their poor memories to reduce feelings of guilt and regret). When it comes to psychotherapy, the support of friends and family is key for recovery.
Medications: Medications can also be used to chemically suppress or prevent symptoms of PTSD. The most common medications used to treat PTSD are antidepressants. These drugs help reduce depressive symptoms like sadness and worry. Other PTSD medications are used to help individuals with recurring nightmares to sleep at night. There are dozens upon dozens of PTSD medications that currently exist. Any individual who suffers from PTSD and is interested in medication as treatment should speak to their physician.
In general, one needs to be able to understand the signs and symptoms of any mental health disorder including PTSD to avoid making any rude statements. PTSD is more than just a soldier’s disease; it can affect any single person who has faced a traumatic event. Stressful events and traumatic events are two very different things. Stressful events tend to be less severe than traumatic events and involve minor amounts of anxiety. Traumatic events, however, are experiences that cause physical, emotional, and/or mental harm to an individual. Things like experiencing a death, a car accident, or an injury are all traumatic events and can cause PTSD. Evidently, these events aren’t necessarily very uncommon and are part of the lives of many people. In fact, the majority of American adults experience a traumatic event. To anyone who has faced a traumatic event, if the experience is recurring and causing stressful memories, consider seeking medical attention. The best way to prevent severe PTSD is by detecting it early, so any sign of it should be taken seriously.
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