A Guide to Understanding PTSD
Experiencing or witnessing a traumatic event can have a significant effect on a person’s psyche. Sometimes the impact can be so great that it causes mental health issues like anxiety, avoidance behaviours, and general changes in mood and thought processes. In these situations, an individual may be diagnosed with Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD).
A psychiatric disorder that can lead to severe distress, PTSD is well-studied and can be triggered by a number of events. It also often co-occurs with other mental health conditions like substance use disorder, anxiety, and depression. In this guide we explore PTSD to help you understand more about the causes, symptoms, and possible treatment options like trauma therapy in Singapore.
Definition of PTSD
Not everyone who has experienced trauma will inevitably develop PTSD. After a traumatic event, it is normal to feel related anxiety or stress. You might even have other issues like insomnia. However this does not automatically mean that you have PTSD.
PTSD is usually diagnosed when the symptoms last for more than a month. There must also be direct or indirect exposure to the event. It should also have affected your mental health negatively in the form of avoidance behaviour or mood alterations.
The diagnosis of PTSD should always be done by a certified mental health professional. A full evaluation of your symptoms will be conducted before an official diagnosis is given and psychological counselling is recommended.
What events can cause PTSD
PTSD can develop after any type of trauma, but events that involve a threat to a person's life, serious injury, or sexual violence are more likely to cause PTSD. This definition can encompass a number of encounters that include:
Physical or sexual assault
Witnessing violent acts
War and conflict
Death of someone close to you
To reiterate, while experiencing trauma is usually a precursor to PTSD, not everyone who goes through trauma will necessarily develop PTSD. It is not clear why PTSD develops but it may be linked to survival mechanisms, stress hormones, and changes in the brain.
Symptoms of PTSD
PTSD can cause a range of symptoms which are usually divided into four select categories:
PTSD sufferers are prone to re-experiencing the traumatic event through flashbacks, nightmares, and recollections. They may also be easily triggered by things that remind them of the trauma.
Avoiding places, situations, or people that trigger their distressing thoughts or memories of the traumatic event is a common symptom among PTSD patients, and will need significant trauma therapy to manage. Avoidance behaviour may lower a patient’s quality of life as it can lead to detachment from others, or a loss of interest in certain activities.
Negative Thoughts And Moods
PTSD can cause people to have negative thoughts or beliefs about themselves, others, or the world. They may also experience guilt, shame, estrangement, or hopelessness related to their trauma.
If you have PTSD, you may feel constantly on edge due to hyperarousal. Excessive emotions, issues with relating to other people, difficulty falling asleep, irritability, bursts of anger, and trouble with concentration can all be considered as hyperarousal.
Hyperarousal can also manifest with physical symptoms like high blood pressure, increased heart rate, rapid breathing, nausea, and muscle tension.
How to deal with PTSD and get treatment
Treatment for PTSD aims to reduce the mental and physical symptoms of PTSD to allow those affected to function better on a daily basis. This can be achieved through psychological counselling in Singapore, medication, or a combination of both.
Psychotherapy treatment for PTSD deals with the behavioural changes that result from a traumatic incident. It involves teaching people with PTSD certain coping skills, identifying triggers, and changing negative thought patterns and behaviours. Psychotherapy can also include other forms of treatment such as Prolonged Exposure Therapy and Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR).
In Prolonged Exposure Therapy, the patient is exposed to situations that cause the PTSD-linked anxiety or stress. This is done in a controlled, safe, and professional environment. Prolonged Exposure Therapy can help a person confront their triggers and become more comfortable in those situations.
EMDR is a type of therapy that uses eye movements to help people process traumatic memories. It can help reduce the intensity of PTSD symptoms and improve overall functioning. It has also shown success in treating phobias.
Antidepressants and anti-anxiety medication can be helpful in managing PTSD symptoms. However, medication should always be prescribed and monitored by a healthcare professional. By managing the symptoms of PTSD, these medications may also make it easier for patients to actively and willingly participate in trauma therapy in Singapore.
Some patients may have a misconception that the PTSD symptoms they experience in the aftermath of a traumatic event will get better over time. This is not true for everyone. Some people may have PTSD-induced issues for months or years after the event.
Thankfully there are proven methods of treatment for the condition which can significantly improve a patient’s life. Talking to a qualified professional about PTSD symptoms can help patients acquire a greater understanding of the condition and gain knowledge of the resources and treatment options that are available.
At Redwood Psychology, our highly experienced clinical team is committed to providing patient-centric care for all of our clients. Contact us today to learn more about our services and book an appointment.