What is PTSD? Do I have PTSD? What are the symptoms of PTSD? Can you fully recover from PTSD? What are the 5 stages of PTSD? Can PTSD be cured? How long does it take to heal from PTSD? What are the ways how to recover from PTSD? If you are looking for answers to these questions, you have come to the right place.
Hi. My name is Sean Galla. I am a group leader for online peer support groups for men, including PTSD support groups. If you or a loved one has PTSD, one of the best ways to manage the condition is to learn as much about it and possible ways to heal from it. This article has all the information you need to understand PTSD better and information about how to recover from PTSD.
Table of Contents:
What is PTSD?
PTSD or post-traumatic stress disorder is a mental health condition or mental illness characterized by developing symptoms related to stress after a traumatic experience or a series of traumatic events that made the person feel unsafe, under threat, or in danger.
Whenever the human brain experiences trauma, the normal response makes the person feel sad, frightened, disconnected, and anxious. However, these feelings can fade over time, depending on the extent of the trauma. If these feelings linger for months or years in connection with a particular event, it can be said that the person has PTSD, and sometimes complex PTSD.
PTSD is commonly associated with sexual assault survivors or soldiers who have been in battle and military combat. While this is true, PTSD can occur in anyone who goes through an event or series of events that overwhelm the brain and cause fear for one’s safety, especially if the events feel uncontrollable or unpredictable.
PTSD is also common amongst people who experience repeated traumatic events or are exposed to extreme traumatic events and the aftermath. These events include accidents that cause severe physical harm, sexual abuse, physical assault, torture, war, and natural disasters, among other traumatic events. As a result, the survivor experiences intense helplessness, feat, or horror that can be paralyzing or numbing, affecting their day-to-day life.
PTSD can also manifest in people who witness an event and are not direct victims and people who come across pieces of the events, like law enforcement officers and emergency workers. It can be diagnosed in friends and family members of loved ones who experienced the trauma.
PTSD often leaves the victim with an overwhelming sense of danger and traumatic memories.
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What Causes PTSD?
Whenever a person encounters a stressful event, the nervous system gives a fight-or-flight response. This is characterized by increased heart rate, rise in blood pressure, tightening of muscles, and increased strength and reaction speed. Once the feeling of danger passes, the nervous system calms the body by lowering the heart rate and blood pressure, returning to a normal state.
PTSD occurs when the individual continues to experience stress after an event has long passed. The nervous system gets stuck in this fight or flight response, making it difficult for the person to move on from the event. When this happens, the only way to get over the traumatic event is to help the nervous system to get unstuck, which requires you to learn how to recover from PTSD.
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Signs of PTSD
While it may have similarities, PTSD can manifest differently in different people since everyone has a different tolerance for stress and how their nervous system works. While most people develop symptoms immediately after the traumatic event, it can take days, weeks, months, or even years for it to manifest in others.
The four main symptoms of PTSD include:
- Re-experiencing trauma – flashbacks, intrusive memories, nightmares, or deep mental or physical reactions when triggered.
- Negative thought and mood changes – feeling alienated and lonely, depression and hopelessness, feeling distrust and betrayal, difficulty concentrating or remembering, and feelings of guilt, shame, or self-blame.
- Avoidance and numbing – the person avoids anything that reminds them of the trauma, forgetting aspects of the ordeal, losing interest in activities and life in general, and experiencing emotional numbness and detachment from others.
- Hyperarousal – irritability, sleep problems, hypervigilance (being on constant “red alert”), jumpy or easily startled, angry outbursts, aggression, and self-destructive behavior.
PTSD symptoms can differ in young children from those experienced by adults. Some of the symptoms common amongst children include:
- Sleep problems and nightmares
- Fear of being separated from their parent.
- Losing previously-acquired skills like toilet training.
- Aches and pains with no apparent cause.
- Compulsive play where themes or aspects of the trauma are repeated.
- New phobias and anxieties are unrelated to the trauma, like the fear of monsters.
- Acting out the trauma through stories, play, or drawings.
- Irritability and aggression.
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Coping Support and Living with PTSD
When you get a brain injury in the form of trauma, the effects can be far-reaching and highly debilitating. PTSD symptoms can affect your work, cause health problems, and affect your mental health, and even your quality of life. Some symptoms include feeling isolated, inability to trust people, difficulty maintaining a job, and difficulty expressing your emotions or thoughts.
Learning healthy PTSD coping mechanisms can make your PTSD recovery more effective.
Being part of a PTSD support group is one of the best ways to learn about coping mechanisms and forms of help available. Some of the most effective coping mechanisms include exercising, spending time with people, seeking counseling, practicing mindfulness, changing your lifestyle, and journaling.
Failure to seek help for PTSD can result in other mental health conditions such as eating disorder, bipolar disorder, depression, anxiety disorder, depression and substance abuse disorder. According to research, people with PTSD are six times more likely to develop depression and five times more likely to develop anxiety. PTSD also increases the chances of suicide by up to six times and a high rate of deliberate self-harm. It is paramount that one seeks help on the onset of PTSD.
On the other hand, read How to Express Your Feelings for a guide and tips for expressing your feeling better.
If you are struggling with PTSD, it is important to know your triggers. This way, you can avoid people, places, or things that remind you of the traumatic experience. Triggers can be either internal or external.
Internal triggers include anger, muscle tension, vulnerability, sadness, loneliness, memories, and physical pain.
External triggers can include news, anniversaries, people, places, holidays, smells, movies, or TV shows. While it may be difficult to avoid all the triggers that cause flashbacks, it is essential to learn healthy ways of responding to these triggers to live a full life. Participating in a recovery program like a PTSD support group can ensure you know the best ways to deal with your triggers.
How to Recover from PTSD
Get professional help
The longer a PTSD survivor goes without medical advice and treatment, the harder it becomes for their symptoms to be evaluated and find healing. You can seek professional help from a mental health provider such as a counselor or psychiatrist. These are people trained to diagnose the condition and evaluate your medical needs. A psychiatry clinician used the best type of therapy to work you through the trauma. This can include psychotherapy, relaxation programs, exposure therapy, and cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) like eye movement desensitization and reprocessing to help you better understand the trauma and change the mental process that causes PTSD.
Employee-assistance programs, healthcare providers, the U.S. Department of veterans affairs, police departments, the national center for PTSD, and crisis hotlines and helplines can recommend PTSD treatment options, or treatment programs available in your area.
Be patient with yourself
It is important to take a moment and acknowledge the traumatic event you have experienced and realize this will be a hard time in your life following the event. It would help if you gave yourself time to mourn the losses you have experienced to find a way to move on.
Take better care of your physical and mental health
After a traumatic experience, some coping mechanisms people adopt include isolation, negative habits like substance abuse or alcohol abuse, and taking up risky behavior, which is counterproductive to their recovery journey.
One of the best ways to recover from PTSD involves practicing self-care, including eating healthy, exercising, meditating, ensuring you get enough sleep, and spending time with others.
Tell someone about your experience
When you experience a tragedy that causes trauma, you can work through the pain by talking to someone about it. Sometimes, this involves telling the story multiple times for an extended period, as this helps the mind to normalize the ordeal. Apart from talking to a therapist or mental health professional, you can also speak to a friend, loved one, or support group. This way, you will have a supportive network that offers support and helps you identify your triggers and adopt effective coping strategies.
Group therapy is an effective tool for overcoming any mental health challenge. PTSD can lead to isolation, making the conditions worse. Being part of a support group ensures you are always amongst people and have a free space to share and learn. As an online support group, you can be sure that there is an active session at any time of the day.
If you are a male survivor of PTSD and do not know who you can talk to about your experience, mensgroup.com is a men-only support group for PTSD survivors you can join.
About MensGroup PTSD Support Group
Men’s Group is an online men’s support group with many other smaller groups, including PTSD support groups for men. Whether you are a young adult going through PTSD or a combat veteran haunted by your time in the war, MensGroup has the resource and help you need to manage your symptoms and live a better, more fulfilling life. MensGroup recognizes the connections between other mental health issues and PTSD. If you are a trauma survivor looking for help to overcome your trauma and related symptoms, MensGroup has all the help you need.
Living with PTSD can disrupt your life and the lives of your family members. Learning more about the condition and how to recover from PTSD is an ideal way of starting to deal with the trauma positively. You can also get the help and support you need as you face your symptoms and work on overcoming them in a support group. If you are interested in living a whole and complete life, joining a PTSD support group like MensGroup is an important step to recovery.
*Sources: 1. Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) 2. Healing From Posttraumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) 3. What Are the Treatments for PTSD? 4. What is complex PTSD: Symptoms, treatment, and resources to help you cope 5. How to recover from post-traumatic stress disorder