If you have post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), you might have reasons to avoid treatment, such as thinking you don’t have time, fearing judgment, or worrying about privacy. However, these concerns are often unfounded. It’s important to remember that seeking help is never too late and can lead to significant improvements in your well-being.
What Is PTSD?
Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is a psychological condition that can occur in individuals who have experienced or witnessed a traumatic event. According to the American Psychiatric Association, PTSD affects about 3.5 percent of U.S. adults each year.
Know The Symptoms
Common symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) often involve avoidance, altered physical and emotional responses, intrusive memories, and negative shifts in mood and thinking patterns.
Examples of avoidance:
- Avoid discussing or contemplating the traumatic event they experienced
- Avoidance of activities, individuals, or locations that serve as reminders of the traumatic event they endured
Examples of changes in physical and emotional reactions
- Easily startled or alarmed
- Constantly scanning their surroundings for potential threats
- Self-destructive tendencies, such as excessive drinking or driving too fast
- Trouble sleeping
- Struggles with focusing
- Easily irritated, angry, or exhibit aggressive behavior
- Devastating shame or guilt
Examples of intrusive memories:
- Chronic, unwanted painful memories of what happened
- You relive the trauma as flashbacks like it was happening again
- Disturbing dreams or nightmares about what happened
- Severe emotional pain or physical responses to whatever reminds you of the trauma
Examples of negative changes in thinking and mood:
- Bad thoughts about yourself, someone else, or the world
- Despair about the future
- Memory issues
Some factors that boost chances for PTSD include:
- Surviving a dangerous event and trauma
- Getting injured
- Seeing someone else hurt
- Feeling horror, powerlessness, or intense fear
- Having minimal or zero social support following the event
- Handling extra stress after what happened, such as pain and injury, death of a loved one, or loss of employment or your home
- You have a history of mental disease or substance abuse
Is It Ever Too Late To Treat PTSD?
By all accounts, it’s never too late to treat PTSD. Health issues like posttraumatic stress disorder, depression, bipolar disorder, and anxiety disorders can worsen if the symptoms are ignored, sometimes resulting in devastating consequences.
Tips for recovering from PTSD
- Seek professional help as soon as possible. The longer you delay treatment, the more complex the healing process. The first place to start is to schedule a visit with a psychiatrist or other mental healthcare professional.
- Have patience with yourself. Recognize you’re going through a difficult time in your life. Give yourself time to lament the losses you’ve suffered.
- Be vocal about it. It’s only natural to feel the need to work through pain after experiencing a tragedy. As a result, you may feel compelled to repeat the same story continually for days, weeks, or however long needed – and that’s not a bad thing.
- Don’t self-isolate. Go to a place of worship, join a book club, fitness class, or anywhere else with people in attendance.
- Develop healthy eating habits, exercise, and get the recommended amount of sleep for your age group. Being stressed opens you up to illness. A healthy diet and getting enough sleep can contribute to overall wellness, and regular exercise can reduce depression and stress.
- Give alternative relaxation methods a chance — breathing exercises, meditation, stretching, yoga, enjoying quiet music, and spending time outdoors.
- Join a support group to help rebuild trust in others.
- Avoid bad coping actions like drugs or alcohol, excessive work hours, violent behavior, and angry intimidation.
Diagnosis & Treatment
To receive a diagnosis of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), symptoms must last for over a month and cause significant distress or impairment in daily life. Initial symptoms can emerge within three months of the trauma but may arise later and persist for months or even years. PTSD is often accompanied by other conditions such as depression, substance abuse, memory problems, and various mental and physical health challenges. While your primary healthcare provider may diagnose PTSD, they may also refer you to a mental healthcare specialist for a comprehensive psychiatric evaluation.
Treatment may include psychotherapy, self-help, or medicine.
Coping with mental illness poses challenges not only for the individual affected but also for those in their immediate circle. If you have PTSD or a related disorder, the first step is to see a doctor or mental healthcare specialist for diagnosis. Then, you can start walking the road to recovery.