Overview of Condition
Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), is an anxiety disorder that develops after experiencing a traumatic event. This could include sexual assault, military combat, domestic violence, serious injury, natural disasters, or imminent threats of death.
Not everyone who is exposed to a traumatic event will experience PTSD; estimates suggest 1 in 3 people are likely to develop symptoms following a trauma. Some people may experience symptoms limited to the first four weeks following the event; this is known as acute stress disorder. A diagnosis of PTSD is given when symptoms persist for several months after the event has occurred.
Symptoms of PTSD include the following:
- Nightmares, flashbacks, and reliving of the traumatic event
- Avoidance of triggers or situations that are associated with the experience
- Emotional numbing to avoid dealing with the pain and emotions – this can lead to withdrawal from others
- Hypervigilance and anxiety, staying alert all the time to be aware of danger
- Poor sleep
- Feelings of anxiety, depression, and despair
The recommended treatment for PTSD is trauma-focused Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) and Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR). Medication can be prescribed to help with sleep disturbance in the acute phase of this disorder.
CBT is a form of talk therapy that can help patients manage their illness problems by changing the way they think and behave. It is most commonly used to treat anxiety and depression, but has also shown efficacy in treating PTSD.
Caring for someone with PTSD
It is often parents who are the primary caregivers to their loved ones with a mental illness, spending most of their time tending to the medical needs of their loved one.
But being a caregiver can be very stressful and burdensome. It often leaves the caregiver with little or no time to tend to his/her own needs. Approximately 63% of caregivers admit not having enough time for themselves, and 55% admit that they don't have time to manage their own health. Routine visits to the doctor are essential to ask for advice and assistance with caregiving, especially since caregiving is known to have mental health consequences for the caregiver, including the increased likelihood of depression, insomnia, and anxiety.
- Symptoms of extreme stress are a normal response to a traumatic experience. PTSD is diagnosed when such symptoms persist over a longer period of time.
- It is estimated that around 3% of the population develop PTSD at some point in their life.
- The incidence of PTSD is slightly higher in military populations (4 – 7%).
- Recovery from PTSD is an ongoing process that does not happen overnight. With the right treatment and support, many people with PTSD can get better, even many years after the traumatic event.