Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder: Symptoms and Treatment

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Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder: Symptoms and Treatment

Post-traumatic stress disorder, commonly referred to as PTSD, is a disorder that affects 3.5% of American adults. It is experienced by people who have either directly been involved in a traumatic event or witnessed one. These events can range from natural disasters, terrorist attacks, rape, war, and many other extremely traumatic episodes.
PTSD is a common occurrence with veterans. The United States Department of Veteran Affairs believes that approximately 30% of all veterans who were involved with the Vietnam war have had PTSD during their lifetime.

If your doctor suspects that you have post-traumatic stress disorder, they will first rule out any underlying medical issues that are caused by a physical condition. Your doctor will then have you undergo a full psychological evaluation to determine if you meet the medical criteria to be officially diagnosed with PTSD.
Some of the criteria that doctors use to diagnose the disorder include some but not necessarily all of these:
•Witnessing a traumatic event (including experiencing the trauma, learning someone has experienced it, or seeing the trauma happen to someone else)
•Nightmares and/or flashbacks
•Physical reaction to reminders of the traumatic event
•Thoughts related to trauma
•Inability to remember some major events that occurred during the traumatic experience

If you are diagnosed with PTSD, your doctor may recommend certain treatments that can include several options.
Therapy Options
Your doctor may advise you to begin cognitive therapy, which is a form of psychotherapy that is intended to help people change negative thought patterns. Your doctor may also recommend exposure therapy, which can help you begin to come to terms with traumatic events by slowly reintroducing you to triggering memories.

If you are diagnosed with PTSD, your doctor may discuss with you options for starting medications like anti-depressants or medicine used to address anxiety symptoms. Some forms of these medications may be used over a long period of time, while others might be used temporarily. It’s important to ask your doctor if you have any questions or concerns about your medication usage.

Alternative Treatments
Some doctors may suggest trying alternative treatments in conjunction with traditional Western medicine. Alternative treatments are considered approaches that are not known as “standard to the current practice of Western medicine.” Some examples include traditional Chinese medicine, Ayurvedic medicine, yoga, and acupuncture.

Living with PTSD
When you’re living with PTSD, it can be helpful to join support groups that encourage people with PTSD to talk about their experiences and coping mechanisms. Psychology Today has a search tool that enables people to find support groups close to home. These groups can help you connect with others that may be experiencing similar situations.
No matter how you and your doctor decide to treat your PTSD, it’s important that you talk with them if you feel like you are struggling to cope with your symptoms, especially if you begin having thoughts of suicide. SAMHSA, the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, has a free 24-hour hotline available for individuals that need help.

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