What Is PTSD ?
While returning war veterans are the most commonly diagnosed victims of post traumatic stress disorder, anyone who is exposed to a traumatic and stressful event can display symptoms in the weeks following the event. Statistics show 8% of men and 20% of women end up developing PTSD after a crisis event and about 30% of these people develop chronic forms that stay with them throughout their lives.
PTSD is not an all consuming anxiety disorder, but rather one dotted with periods of increased symptoms followed by a remission, so to speak, or decrease in the symptoms. While it’s different for everyone, some older war veterans report a life filled with mild symptoms followed by an increase in symptom severity after they retire or face severe medical illnesses. Reminders of their military service such as reunions or anniversary dates made public by the media also increase their symptoms.
Numbers of Victims And Causes PTSD is considered quite common among Americans. It is estimated almost 8% of all Americans will have some form of PTSD in their lives, with women twice as likely as men to face it. The most common traumatic events associated with PTSD in men are combat, rape, neglect as a child and childhood physical abuse. Women often flashback to sexual molestation and rape, physical attacks, events where they are threatened with a weapon and childhood physical abuse. Perhaps the most telling statistic is among men and women who have war zone combat experience. There, almost 30% of the men and women suffer from PTSD. Statistics also show that more than half of the men who served in Vietnam and almost half of the female veterans from Vietnam experienced serious PTSD symptoms.
Those Most Susceptible To PTSD
The greater the tragedy, the more unpredictable or uncontrollable it was, the more likely the victim is to develop PTSD. When the tragedy was sexual in nature, the victim felt responsibility towards the tragedy (real or imagined) and it involved betrayal, the victim is also more likely to suffer PTSD in the future. Additionally, the early the onset of the tragedy, the more likely a person is to suffer from this disorder. The type of social support system and environment one comes home to after the tragedy also have a large impact on whether or not one will suffer from PTSD. If a home life is filled with shame, guilt or self-hatred, PTSD is more likely to develop.
Physical Consequences of PTSD
One of the first things doctors have noticed in those with PTSD is the hypersensitive nervous system of the victim. This causes an increased startle reflex and sleep disorders. Those with PTSD also tend to have abnormal amounts of important hormones involved with the body’s stress responses. The thyroid function tends to be enhanced and the cortisol levels are lower than normal. Moreover, the epinephrine and norepinephrine levels are higher. Physical symptoms of these problems include prevalent headaches, intestinal complaints, problems with one’s immune system, dizziness and chest pains.
The key to treating post traumatic stress disorder is a combination of psychotherapy and drug therapy. Unfortunately, there is no magical pill that will take away the problem and no definitive treatment set forth by the text books, but some treatments appear to work better than others. Group therapy, cognitive behavioral therapy and exposure therapy all appear to produce positive results. Exposure therapy is a therapy that whereby the patient re-lives his trauma over and over again under supervised conditions to help him work through the situation.
Medications have been shown to help with the symptoms of anxiety and depression, as well as a sleep aid. PTSD medications used most frequently include Zoloft and Prozac, however, cognitive behavioral therapy is currently producing better results than drug therapies in some patients. Diagnosis and treatment of PTSD is a very specialized process and differs from person to person.
How Family and Friends Can Help
While professional care is recommended for those who have PTSD, family and friends often want to help in the recovery process. Experts advice loved ones to allow the victim to speak about their experiences without being judgmental or necessarily trying to console them. Discourage them from developing patterns of avoidance, staying away from situations which remind them of the traumatic event. If they are not seeking counseling, encourage them to contact PTSD organizations and to gain support from other survivors.
For people in the UK http://www.nhs.uk/conditions/post-traumatic-stress-disorder
For people in the USA http://www.adaa.org
Reduce Stress Fast with meditation
Over time, if allowed to go to long, stress can have long-term effects on our health. We need to provoke a relaxation response to bring our nervous systems back into balance. If you aren’t sure how to do this, the following are 10 specific Quick relaxation techniques to produce relaxation and ease stress. Most take between 10 and 20 minutes, and a few techniques you can do during a ten-minute break in the middle of your day.
1. Deep breathing meditation
Sit up straight. Place a hand on your stomach and one on your chest. Take a deep breath in through your nose and breathe out through your mouth, concentrating on pushing out your abdomen, not your chest.
2. Progressive muscle relaxation
Wear loose, comfortable clothing, and take a minute to breathe deeply. You’ll slowly relax all your muscles starting with your feet and working up. Begin by focusing on one foot, and squeeze those foot muscles tightly. Count to 10, and relax that foot. Take a moment to breathe slowly, and then do the same with the other foot. Work slowly upward to each calf, each thigh, and so on.
Imagine yourself in a calm, comfortable, safe, warm, restful, and relaxing environment. For example, if you imagine a scene at the beach, focus on specific imagery, like the sounds of water, the warm breeze, and the feel of the sand.
4. Body scan meditation
Lie on your back and breathe deeply, using your stomach. Start with the toes of one foot, and focus on the sensations in those toes for a minute or two, imagining your breath reaching your toes on that foot. Move up through each part of that leg, and then start with the other. Work upward through each part of the body including each part of the face up through your scalp. Then imagine your breath going beyond the top of your head as you hover above your body.
5. Mindfulness meditation
Find a quiet place and sit up straight. Focus on a feeling you have, or imagine a scene, or concentrate on an object or a word. Keep an open mind and don’t stress over whether you’re doing it correctly.
6. Visual meditation
Standing, sitting, or lying down, close your eyes and imagine yourself in a serene setting. using all your senses, focus in imagery that appeals to as many of your senses as possible: sight, sound, touch, taste, and smell.
7. Self hypnosis
In a comfortable and quiet location, relax your muscles and repeat short affirmations that you are becoming more relaxed. Then, repeat any affirmations you prepared ahead of time.
Exercise is a beneficial way to reduce stress. It combines breathing and poses that improve strength and flexibility.
9. Tai chi
This is a low-impact series of slow and deliberate movements. Participants may be in a group, but their movements are self-paced.
Listen to calming music or relaxing recordings of nature sounds.