Statistics show that approximately 8 million American adults have PTSD at any given time. PTSD, or post-traumatic stress disorder, is a mental health condition that can develop after experiencing or witnessing a traumatic event.
The condition can have a severe impact on an individual’s physical, emotional, and psychological well-being, and it’s vital to know the symptoms and when to seek help.
Causes of PTSD
PTSD is caused by experiencing or witnessing a traumatic event. Trauma can be defined as any event that causes or poses physical, emotional, or psychological harm. It is key to understand that people can develop PTSD even if they were not directly involved in the traumatic event, such as family members or friends of someone who experienced trauma.
However, not everyone who experiences trauma will develop PTSD. Factors such as personal coping mechanisms, social support, family history of mental illness, and previous exposure to trauma can all affect whether or not an individual develops PTSD.
Symptoms of PTSD
PTSD symptoms can be grouped into four main categories: intrusive memories, avoidance, negative changes in mood and cognition, and increased arousal and reactivity.
Intrusive Memories: These are symptoms that involve re-experiencing the traumatic event. This can include flashbacks, nightmares, and unwanted distressing memories of the event. These symptoms can be so severe that an individual may feel like they are reliving the trauma over and over again.
Avoidance: These symptoms involve an individual actively avoiding anything that may remind them of the traumatic event. This can include places, people, or activities that may trigger memories of the event. Some people may also become emotionally numb, have trouble trusting others, or have problems experiencing positive emotions.
Negative Changes in Mood and Cognition: These symptoms involve negative changes in an individual’s mood and cognitive processes. This can include depression, anxiety, guilt, and shame. You may also have negative thoughts about yourself or the world around you.
Increased Arousal and Reactivity: These symptoms involve an individual experiencing increased arousal and reactivity. This can include difficulty sleeping, irritability, anger, and hypervigilance (being constantly on guard). An individual may also startle easily and have a quick temper.
The most common treatment for PTSD is therapy. This can include cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT), which helps an individual change their negative thoughts and behaviors related to the traumatic event.
Other types of therapy that can help with PTSD include exposure therapy – which helps confront and work through traumatic memories, and eye movement desensitization and reprocessing (EMDR) – which helps process and integrate traumatic memories.
Antidepressant medications can be used to help with the symptoms of PTSD. Medications such as anxiolytics and certain antidepressants may be prescribed to provide temporary relief from symptoms such as depression, anxiety, and intrusive memories and promote sleep.
Stellate Ganglion Block
A stellate ganglion block, or SGB, is an injection of a common local anesthetic near a cluster of nerves in the neck called the stellate ganglion as a means of regulating—or “rebooting”—a hyperactive sympathetic nervous system response. It is thought that numbing these nerves for a short period of time interrupts a fight-or-flight response that is stuck in “on” mode and forces it “off,” enabling a reset of sorts. Once the sympathetic nervous system response has been re-regulated, PTSD symptoms can ease or stop. While SGB is not considered a cure for PTSD symptoms, the outpatient procedure, which usually takes about 15 minutes, is used to ease the symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and trauma-associated mood disorders.
Support groups can provide a sense of community and understanding for individuals with PTSD. They can also provide an opportunity for individuals to share their experiences and learn from others who have been through similar experiences.
Self-care is an essential part of managing anxiety and stress associated with PTSD. This can include activities such as getting enough sleep, exercising regularly, eating a balanced diet, and practicing relaxation techniques such as yoga or meditation.
PTSD is a serious condition that can have a significant impact on an individual’s life. If you or someone you know is experiencing symptoms of PTSD, it is important to seek help from a mental health professional as soon as possible. With the right treatment and support, it is possible to manage the symptoms of PTSD and live a healthy and productive life.