Approximately one out of 11 people will be diagnosed with PTSD in their lifetime. PTSD can be life-altering and even debilitating, but there’s hope in treatment and management strategies.
Our team at Greater Lowell Psychiatric Associates specializes in psychiatric care, including PTSD.
Overview of PTSD
PTSD, or post-traumatic stress disorder, is a mental health condition that happens as a result of a traumatic event like combat exposure, physical abuse, sexual violence, kidnapping, and natural disasters.
Whatever the trauma was in your life, it can literally alter the chemistry in your brain. This happens in a few different ways:
There’s an almond-shaped mass deep inside of your brain that is responsible for your ability to recognize a threat and survive also your ability to associate an emotion with a memory. After going through trauma, your amygdala works overtime and can eventually get stuck in high alert mode. This causes you to experience paranoia and possibly relive the traumatic event over and over again.
The hippocampus is another area of your brain in charge of long and short-term memory. When your stress levels rise as a result of trauma, the stress hormones kill cells in your hippocampus. Because your memory center is not working properly, your brain does not put the traumatic event in the past and leave it there.
Compromised nervous system
After trauma, your stress levels skyrocket and that throws your nervous system out of sorts. As a result, you feel the many symptoms of PTSD.
Not every trauma results in PTSD; however, there are a few factors that increase your risk, including:
- Trauma that is long-lasting
- Trauma that occurred in childhood
- Being a first responder of military personnel
- Already having mental health issues
- Substance abuse
- Lack of a support system
It is important to recognize if you’re at risk for developing PTSD and seek help right away.
There are four main ways to categorize your PTSD symptoms and determine if you’re suffering from PTSD: intrusive memories, avoidance, negative changes in thoughts and feelings, and changes in physical and emotional reactions. You may experience these symptoms:
1. Intrusive memories
If you’ve experienced a trauma, it is likely that you’re not able to stop thinking about it. Your brain keeps bringing the memory of the event to the forefront of your thoughts, you have flashbacks, or you have nightmares. You might also exhibit severe emotional distress or even a physical reaction if you are reminded of the traumatic event.
On the other hand, PTSD can also look like avoidance. Instead of reliving the trauma, you avoid any and all talk or thought of the event. You might also stay away from certain places, activities, people, etc. that remind you of your trauma.
3. Negative changes in thinking or mood
Often, your PTSD symptoms might look a lot like depression or anxiety. You might become detached from things you once loved and people you once spent time with. Negative changes like hopelessness, feeling emotionally numb, negative thoughts about people, the world, or yourself are all symptoms of PTSD.
In the most serious cases, you could experience suicidal thoughts or even take suicidal action. If this is true for you, do not hesitate. Call our office immediately to seek help and treatment.
4. Changes in physical and emotional reactions
Similar to the ways your thoughts and mood can change, PTSD can also affect your physical and emotional reactions. You might become easily frightened or paranoid. You could have difficulty concentrating or sleeping. Sometimes, PTSD symptoms include self-destructive behavior like drinking too much or driving too fast. Other emotional reactions like being overly irritable, quick to anger, aggressive, or guilty are also signs of PTSD.
What can I do about my PTSD?
The best thing you can do about your PTSD is seek help from one of your medical professionals. After meeting with one of our experts, we create a treatment plan that’s right for you. This might include:
- Psychotherapy or counseling
- Cognitive behavioral therapy
- Exposure therapy
- Nutritional or lifestyle changes
No matter what is causing your PTSD, we are here to guide you towards a happier and healthier life. Don’t go another day suffering through PTSD alone. Call our office or schedule an appointment online today.