Traumatic experiences have a significant and scientifically proven impact on the brain. The effects of trauma will pass in weeks or months for most people as they heal physically, mentally, and emotionally. For others, trauma lingers, and returning to life as they knew it is more difficult. These individuals may be suffering from posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD), a condition that makes it harder to stay healthy, maintain relationships, and enjoy life. Richmond University Medical Center would like you to learn more about PTSD and its common symptoms to help yourself or a loved one get the care needed to overcome this challenging condition.
What Is PTSD?
PTSD occurs after intense and/or prolonged trauma. It affects individuals of all ages, races, and genders, and common causes include experiencing or witnessing:
- Military combat
- Sexual violence
- Vehicle accidents, fires, and other dangerous situations
- Natural disasters
Feeling nervous or depressed and having trouble with basic tasks after such an event is common. When these feelings persist over weeks or months, PTSD may be the cause. At the same time, PTSD is not simply an emotional problem. This condition causes short- and long-term changes to regions of the brain including the amygdala, prefrontal cortex, and the hippocampus that modify our responses to trauma-related stress and cause the symptoms of PTSD.
Warning Signs of PTSD
Monitoring for common signs of PTSD makes it easier to get help when needed. If you notice any of these symptoms, reach out to a trusted physician or mental health professional or encourage your friend or family member to do the same:
- Avoidance of triggers that affect quality of life: Anything that reminds a person of the trauma they suffered can become a trigger. While managing triggers can be healthy, it may also cause significant personal and professional hurdles. PTSD may cause you to avoid crowded spaces, noisy environments, one-on-one contact, driving, and more to feel safe from triggers.
- Reliving a traumatic event: It is not just that triggers make people with PTSD recall painful memories. Triggers can also often cause individuals to vividly relive events. If nightmares about a traumatic event feel real or flashbacks interrupt sleep and daily life, PTSD may be the reason.
- Negative or dulled emotions: PTSD changes how we see ourselves and those around us. Even people with the most positive attitudes may begin to see the world as threatening and struggle to trust others. People with PTSD may blame themselves for their trauma or struggle with other negative emotions and numbness where they once felt joy, excitement, and hope.
- Withdrawal: Talking about traumatic experiences can be extremely difficult, even for individuals who are not coping with PTSD. As a result, those affected often avoid the people they love, as well as work, school, and favorite activities to prevent discussing painful experiences.
- Heightened sense of danger: People coping with PTSD often feel constant alertness that leaves them on edge and irritable. This hyperarousal may cause difficulty with focus, poor sleep, and strong negative reactions to surprises, being startled, or loud noises.
- New risky behaviors: Dealing with the traumatic responses of PTSD can cause individuals to turn to unhealthy behaviors as a coping mechanism, including smoking and alcohol or substance use. At the same time, this issue may present with dangerous acts that were previously uncharacteristic, such as reckless driving, risky sexual behaviors, self-harm, disordered eating, and/or impulsive decision-making.
Get Support for PTSD
If you are coping with PTSD, you are not alone. This condition does not have to last forever. Therapy, medications, and other treatments can resolve symptoms and bring the peace you deserve. To find help for PTSD in Staten Island, New York, contact the Center for Integrative Behavioral Medicine at Richmond University Medical Center today.