Coping with PTSD
Coping with PTSD (Post traumatic stress disorder)
Post traumatic stress disorder – or PTSD – is a mental illness caused by exposure to either a single event, a series of events or prolonged exposure to traumatic events and coping with PTSD can be very difficult.
Thankfully, PTSD is becoming more recognised due to media coverage and a day dedicated to the awareness of the illness (PTSD National Awareness day – 27 June).
What causes PTSD?
You do not have to have directly experienced an event, you could be a witness or have been told about it 3rd hand.
There are many known causes of PTSD:
- Combat exposure
- Childhood sexual abuse
- Rape/sexual assault
- An accident
- Sudden death of a loved one
- Being threatened with violence, including domestic violence
- Life threatening medical diagnosis
What are the symptoms?
The symptoms may appear immediately or they may not appear until years after the event. Each individual will experience symptoms in varying degrees of frequency and intensity:
- Reliving the trauma through nightmares, flashbacks or having frequent, upsetting thoughts about the event. During these times you will experience physical responses that will make you feel like you are ‘back in’ the event
- Avoidance of places, people or situations that remind you of the event
- Being on edge and ‘on the look out’ for a repeat of the traumatic event. This could include having difficultly going to sleep, being on guard for danger, difficulty concentrating
- Negative thoughts about yourself, others or the world
- Difficulty maintaining close relationships
Coping with PTSD
PTSD can be scary, it can feel like you are never going to be able to move on from the event, and it can impact on every aspect of your life, from work to relationships to a lack of enjoyment in life in general. It is easy to turn to unhealthy coping strategies such as drugs and alcohol in order to block out the thoughts and it is important to recognise when this is happening and put in place alternatives:
- Practice relaxation methods-you could download an app to help you
- Remind yourself they are just memories and that the moment will pass
- Talk to someone you trust
- Identify things that you enjoy doing and make sure you build these into your day
- Avoid drugs and alcohol
- Break tasks down into small, manageable chunks
This is by no means an exhaustive list and you may find other things that are helpful for you. However, if you have noticed that you are struggling to cope and the symptoms are affecting your day to day life it may be time to seek help.
How can it be treated?
- Cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) can be used specifically to help people come to terms with trauma. It does this by working with your memories and helping you to make sense of them. By doing this you can start to move forward and re establish your relationship with yourself, others and the world where the trauma is not the dominating factor.
- Eye movement desensitisation and reprocessing (EMDR) alters the way that traumatic memories are stored in the brain making them easier to manage, thereby causing you less distress. It helps to identify coping strategies and enables you to feel less overwhelmed by the trauma.
The National Institute of Clinical Excellence (NICE) provide guidance on PTSD
Contact our team for further information on treatment available from Select Psychology.