PTSD is a very serious condition that can develop after a person has experienced or witnessed a traumatic or terrifying event in which serious physical harm occurred or was threatened. It can cause feelings of intense fear, helplessness, or horror resulting from a sexual or physical assault, the unexpected death of a loved one, an accident, war, or natural disaster such as Hurricane Sandy. It is not uncommon for symptoms of PTSD to occur weeks, months or even years after the event.
Symptoms of PTSD include
Reliving the ordeal through thoughts and memories of the trauma. These may include flashbacks, hallucinations, and nightmares. Reminders of the trauma can cause extreme distress.
Avoiding people, places, thoughts, or situations that remind them of the trauma. This, however, can lead to feelings of isolation, loss of interest in previously enjoyable activities. Avoidance does not allow for a healing of the trauma.
Heightened arousal can included excessive emotions, problems relating to others, sleep disturbances; irritability; outbursts of anger; difficulty concentrating; and being easily frightened. Physical symptoms, such as increased blood pressure and heart rate, rapid breathing, muscle tension, nausea and diarrhea can also occur.
In recent years, treatment for PTSD has shown great hope, allowing individuals to heal from, not just manage, the trauma. Treatment includes:
Exposure Based Treatment which encourages the person to discuss the experience and all related feelings. Staying with the emotions and learning how to process them causes the fear to dissipate or change into a more manageable feeling.
Cognitive Processing Therapy re examines any negative beliefs related to the trauma and replaces them with more realistic ones. An example might be: after a natural disaster, feeling as though one is incapable of rebuilding their life and being happy to “I have the ability and resources to recreate my life, although it may be significantly different than before, to one that is rewarding and enjoyable.”
Acceptance and Commitment Therapy helps the individual to identify the feelings associated with the trauma and rather than avoiding them, discover new ways of coping that allow them to regain their lives. By focusing on core values, they can select behaviors that are more empowering and beneficial.
This is only a brief synopsis of my interview with Dr. Holly Parker, licensed psychologist from Harvard University. If you or someone you know would benefit from working with a PTSD specialist, please reach out to Dr. Holly or someone in your area. There is hope. No one needs to suffer from a traumatic experience. Avoidance and denial don’t heal. Facing it with a trained professional will. Feel it so you can heal it.
Contact Dr. Holly Parker at DrHolly@hollyaparker.com or follow her on Facebook at Dr. Holly Parker.