Many people have been through a stressful event in his or her life. When the event, or series of events, causes a lot of stress, it is considered a traumatic event. Traumatic events are characterized by a sense of horror, helplessness, serious injury, or the threat of severe injury or death. Traumatic events affect everyone: survivors, rescue workers, friends, and relatives of victims. A person's response to a traumatic event may vary. Some reactions may include feelings of fear, grief, and depression. Physical and behavioral responses include nausea, dizziness, appetite and sleep pattern changes, and withdrawal from daily activities. Reactions to trauma can last for weeks to months before people start to feel normal again. Most people report feeling better within three months after a traumatic event. If the problems become worse or last longer than one month after the event, the person may have post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).
There are about 8 million people in the United States currently living with PTSD. Even though PTSD treatments work, most people who have PTSD don't get the help they need. In honor of PTSD Awareness Month, educate yourself on the signs and symptoms and help a loved one living with PTSD.
What is PTSD?
Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is an intense physical and emotional response to thoughts and reminders of the event lasting for many weeks or months after the traumatic event. The effects of PTSD can be extensive and debilitating, and the symptoms can harm your mental health, your physical health, how you work, and your relationships. It's normal if you feel isolated, struggle to maintain a job, unable to trust, and difficulty controlling or expressing your emotions. The symptoms of PTSD fall into three broad types: re-living, avoidance, and increased arousal.
- Symptoms of re-living include flashbacks, nightmares, and extreme emotional and physical reactions to reminders of the event. Emotional reactions can include feeling guilty, intense fear of harm, and numbing of emotions. Physical reactions can include uncontrollable shaking, chills or heart palpitations, and tension headaches.
- Symptoms of avoidance include staying away from activities, places, thoughts, or feelings related to the trauma or feeling detached or estranged from others.
- Signs of increased arousal include being overly alert or easily startled, difficulty sleeping, irritability or outbursts of anger, and lack of concentration.
Other symptoms linked with PTSD include panic attacks, depression, suicidal thoughts and feelings, drug abuse, feeling estranged and isolated, and not being able to complete daily tasks.
What Can You Do for Yourself?
There are healthy strategies you can learn to cope with PTSD. These strategies can help give you a sense of renewal, hope, and control. PTSD impacts different areas in our lives, so it is essential to give each area attention for a healthy recovery.
- Understand that your symptoms may be normal, especially right after the trauma.
- Keep to your usual routine.
- Take the time to resolve day-to-day conflicts, so they do not add to your stress.
- Do not shy away from situations, people, and places that remind you of the trauma.
- Find ways to relax and be kind to yourself.
- Turn to family, friends, and clergy person for support and talk about your experiences and feelings with them.
- Participate in leisure and recreational activities.
- Recognize that you cannot control everything.
- Recognize the need for trained help and call CCP’s Integrated Behavioral Health team
For additional resources on how to manage trauma, view these tips.
What Can You Do for Your Child?
All children may experience very stressful events that affect how they think and feel. Most of the time, children recover quickly and thoroughly. However, sometimes children who suffer severe stress, such as from an injury, from the death or threatened death of a close family member or friend, or violence, will be affected long-term. The child could experience this trauma directly or could witness it happening to someone else. When children develop long term symptoms (longer than one month) from such stress, which are upsetting or interfere with their relationships and activities, they may be diagnosed with PTSD. After a diagnosis, the first step is to make the child feel safe by getting support from parents, friends, and school, and by minimizing the chance of another traumatic event to the extent possible.
- Let your child know that it is okay to feel upset when something bad or scary happens
- Encourage your child to express feelings and thoughts, without making judgments
- Return to daily routines
Current World Events; Trauma and PTSD
The stress and fear that have come from current world events, along with the global feelings of loss and isolation create the perfect storm for psychological trauma and even PTSD. As time moves on, almost everyone will be impacted to some extent. This isn’t to say we won’t recover. However, the impact from the stress and grief people have experienced in a short period of time may impact us long after this is pandemic has ended. While for most, symptoms may resolve in time, it is important to know that professional treatment by a behavioral health specialist can help you find healthy ways to deal with any stressors and stress symptoms that you may be experiencing.
When Should You Contact a Behavioral Health Professional?
Learning healthy and productive skills to manage and cope with PTSD symptoms can help you live a fuller life. It is also important to seek help from a Behavioral Health professional who can also assist you in moving toward recovery and healing. People who struggle with PTSD are often isolated, making it hard to reach out for support. Sometimes, people may not realize they struggle with PTSD until symptoms become unbearable. Educating yourself on PTSD symptoms and treatment and seeking out safe, supportive people like close family and friends is vital for a successful recovery. It is important to learn everything you can about your condition so you can clearly explain to others what is happening and ask for what you need.
About half of those with PTSD recover within three months without treatment. Sometimes symptoms do not go away on their own, or they last for more than three months. This may happen because of the severity of the event, having direct exposure to the traumatic event, the seriousness of the threat to life, the number of times an event happened, a history of past trauma, and psychological problems before the event. You may need to consider seeking professional help if your symptoms are severe enough during the first month to interfere a lot with your family, friends, and job.
If you or a loved one are struggling current stress or PTSD, contact CCP's Integrated Behavioral Health team for information on support and treatment. Having a trained medical professional to offer support and guidance in recovery is key for long-term success. At CCP, our Behavioral Health Consults (BHCs) can provide a safe, calm space for you to process your feelings without any fear of being judged. Being consistent in your participation helps you build on your progress, continue growing, and find healing. To connect with one of our Behavioral Health Consultants via telemedicine, call our behavioral health schedulers at (518) 836-3656 or (518) 213-0584, request an appointment online using our "Become Our Patient" form, or call your primary care doctor to let him/her know you want to be seen by a BHC.