No individual is prepared to overcome a traumatic event. The body and mind are in a state of shock after the experience. The events may be replayed time and again, recurring nightmares and feelings of edginess are very well documented. There is a certain disconnect with the immediate world as the person is shaken up.
For individuals having resilience, this state of shock and horror will wash out with the passage of time. They can sort out their feelings, thoughts and process the events and then move on. The symptoms can decrease over a period of time, be it days, weeks or months.
In the case of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), the memories of the disastrous events may not phase out that easily. People do not tend to feel better each day. As a matter of fact, they are often coping with it on a day to day basis. Battling with trauma can be severely debilitating and insights from the scientific community have revealed a lot of useful research that can assist in coping with the effects of PTSD.
Who can become a victim of PTSD?
A common misconception is that PTSD is more of a threat to soldiers or those belonging to the military service. No denying that it poses a risk to them, but PTSD can also develop from the events which feel threatening or daunting to a person. It can occur in any person, be it at home or wherever.
Natural disaster, child abuse, rape, domestic violence, neglect and terrorist attacks or car accidents and many more such events can also lead to PTSD. Apart from that, commonplace incidents can also throw a person into PTSD which can range from bullying, medical procedure and some playground accident. This common myth that only life-threatening events can cause PTSD couldn’t be further from the truth. PTSD is simply because of perceptions or the reactions of a person traumatized from a particular incident.
There is a key difference between the victim of other traumatic experience and PTSD. The victims of PTSD have unwanted symptoms that keep on returning. It intrudes their ability to think properly and focus on the tasks at hand. Rather, they tend to have recurring thoughts about the experiences without their control over it.
Red flags of PTSD
PTSD is, in particular, a form of the stress-related disorder. It is diagnosed usually by the healthcare professionals with a guidebook, called the DSM. The degree of indescribable trauma experienced by the individuals can be helped with proper treatment. The DSM guidebook lists down 4 common symptoms of PTSD:
The DSM lists four clusters of symptoms:
- Terrorising flashbacks
- Damaging or harmful thoughts
Certain victims of PTSD may simply be overly active, edgy or always on alert for no particular reason. They may experience anxiety, are unable to say no or become busy for most of the time. They may even overreact to a balloon popping.
It is as if the self-defence mechanism is constantly activated. In addition to that, during the ‘fight, flight or freeze’ situation, the senses become hyperactive in order to determine a line of attack.
For the victims of PTSD, avoidance is one strategy, using which they can deflect overwhelming stress. Another method is to dissociate or become numb to a considerable degree.
Unhealthy Thoughts or Feelings
The individual suffering from PTSD may become withdrawn from his reality. They often lose interest, ability to enjoy or are unable to fully focus on the task at hand.
The flashbacks are sensations, reactivated memories or emotions that make the frightening event all the more real and disturbing. These flashbacks can be triggered by a related event, causing huge distress to a person.
Flashbacks can occur in the presence or the absence of conscious memories. It can occur in a case where a person can recall a memory at will, which is called explicit memories. It can also occur when memories are formed early in childhood, these are called implicit memories.
Brain and PTSD
According to neuroimaging studies, there are certain changes in the functionality and structure of the brain when compared to the brains of individuals without PTSD. As per research, there are changes in the following parts of the brain:
- Ventromedial prefrontal cortex
PTSD and Hippocampus
Hippocampus is the portion of the brain that undergoes major changes. It oversees memory as well as the capacity to differentiate the present from the past. It stores the memories, but can also reactivate them in a response of particular stimuli. It is reported that hippocampus of the PTSD survivors is quite smaller in comparison which explains the brain’s lack of ability to distinguish past from the present. It also explains sudden panic attacks or flashbacks.
PTSD and Amygdala
The ventromedial PFC and amygdala work in synchronisation. This portion of the brain is responsible for self-awareness and emotional responses. It becomes smaller in size and its ability to work out the ‘fight or flight’ decreases quite so. This also explains the overreaction to harmless everyday events.
Treatment of PTSD
Recovering or treatment of PTSD is all about comforting the mind. It is a process that is different for each person.
Similar to the changes in the brain after the traumatic incident, the therapeutic process can rewire the brain, which helps in resolving the trauma while also repairing the ability of the brain to function properly.
Mindfulness or Mindsight
The human brain changes after these experiences, but new mental abilities can be acquired with some effort.
Mindsight is a process that allows a person to be more informed about the dynamics of the mind, without being overwhelmed by them. It allows the victims to switch off the autopilot of knee jerk reactions.
As is the case, it is necessary for the PTSD survivors to understand their suffering and the mechanism behind it. This will make them feel less alarmed and mitigate their overreactions. It will also allow them to live a fuller life.
Elicia Wilson is a writer by the day and reader by the night. She holds an MBA degree. She has been working a digital and social media marketing specialist. Before stepping into digital marketing, she had gained 5 years’ experience as a creative and web content writer and had been working for online assignment help UK for 3 years. For the love of writing, she writes as a freelancer for several blogs and websites in her spare time.