Coping with PTSD as a Victim
Some traumatic events stay with a person, intruding on normal life in a harmful way. It’s possible to survive with such memories for months or even years, but effective treatments take away the soul-crushing anxiety and bring back peace.
Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) affects at least 7.7 million Americans age 18 and older according to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America (ADAA). The brain disorder is caused in part by a person’s nervous system, which reacts to a traumatic event with hormones designed to protect in times of danger, so-called flight or fight hormones according to the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH). For some people who experience a natural disaster, fight in combat, live through a personal attack or other life-threatening event, the memories and feelings from such incidents remain current without truly fading away. The ADAA describes the following symptoms of PTSD. A person may experience the symptoms right after a trauma, or they may come on months or years after the event:
- Flashbacks, nightmares or other sudden memories of a trauma that occur unexpectedly or when triggered by television programs or other similar images
- Numb and detached feelings, inability to connect with family and friends
- Desire to avoid places connected to the traumatic event or similar to it
- Trouble sleeping
- Difficulty concentrating
- Feelings of anxiousness, agitation, irritation
A person may be diagnosed with PTSD after experiencing a life-threatening event or sexual violation. Behaviors and feelings that significantly affect a person’s life, such as unwillingness to leave the house or an inability to maintain relationships at work, home or school, indicate treatment is needed.
It is emotionally draining to live with PTSD. A normal errand such as getting groceries may be high jacked by sudden feelings of extreme anxiety. The memories of an attack may keep a person constantly on edge, motivating her to constantly check locks on doors, refuse to be alone and feel constantly in danger.
There is no way to predict how a disaster or attack will affect a person. It is more likely to occur in people with a history of repeated trauma, such as people abused as children, first responders or soldiers according to ADAA. In fact, women are more likely to develop PTSD than men, and people exposed to mass violence are more likely to develop the disorder in general.
It’s important to have support when experiencing PTSD symptoms such as anxiety, emotional numbness and anger. While the symptoms make it harder to be close to other people, it is necessary to talk to an understanding person about feelings and problems according to the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA). If relationships with family and friends are strained because of symptoms, a therapist or other trusted counselor is a good resource.
Finding ways to feel contentment and happiness also are important when living with PTSD. NIMH recommends the following strategies for managing symptoms while undergoing treatment:
- Reduce stress through exercise or other physical activities.
- Set easily achievable goals and accomplish them.
- When faced with large tasks, break them up into smaller bits, and finish one goal at a time.
- Spend time with loving, supportive people. Tell them about situations that make symptoms worse.
- Be realistic about recovery time, and expect it to happen gradually, not all at once.
- Discover people and activities that provide comfort and happiness.
Above all, be willing to try strategies that will improve symptoms.
Getting effective professional treatment is also necessary. No one treatment may be right for everyone, and some people may need to try several treatments. Current research into various PTSD treatments shows a lot of success with options that allow a person to remember the event in a safe way and gradually associate the memory with calm feelings. Some treatments recommended by the ADAA include the following:
- Exposure therapy – This helps people control fear by remembering trauma in a safe way, through writing about it, etc.
- Cognitive restructuring – This helps people make sense of bad memories such as taking away feelings of guilt or shame by understanding the event in a realistic way.
- Stress inoculation training – This reduces PTSD symptoms by teaching ways to lower anxiety.
- Virtual reality treatment – This uses virtual environments to expose a person to a feared situation, to ensure the environment is controlled and meets a person’s needs at the time.
Effective PTSD treatments heal a damaged nervous system and help people regain control of emotions and normal life.
Need Help Finding Treatment for PTSD?
Finding supportive people at every step of the treatment and recovery process goes a long way toward achieving recovery. A person who is able to combine treatment with good role models also stands a better chance of avoiding relapse.
If you or a loved one needs advice on finding treatment for PTSD, our admissions coordinators are here to help. We can recommend the best options for each person and offer advice on ways to get treatment started. Don’t spend another day waiting. Our toll-free helpline is open 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Call today.