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PTSD: Test, Treatment & Coping with Flashbacks

PTSD Test, Treatment & Coping with Flashbacks

What is PTSD

Post traumatic stress disorder (also known as PTSD) is, as the name suggests, a type of anxiety disorder brought on by a particular traumatic event. The most widely known example of this is soldiers returning from war after witnessing or being involved in some horrific situation, but there are many causes such as physical trauma, sexual abuse, mental abuse, death of a friend or family member, rape etc.

Following exposure to a tragic event an individual could be at risk of developing emotional distress and anxiety which if left unchecked can bring about the dreaded post traumatic stress disorder. PTSD is classified as an intense anxiety disorder triggered by traumatic experiences and its symptoms are believed to last longer than four weeks. Although trauma stressors are the underlying cause, post traumatic stress disorder can develop immediately after exposure or in some cases, long after the traumatic experience.


Some individuals may experience complex post traumatic stress disorder, sometimes referred to as C-PTSD. The cause of C-PTSD is associated mainly to emotionally and physically degrading experiences stretched over time such as childhood abuse, molestation or domestic violence. When an individual is exposed to distressing situations over a prolonged period of time, where they feel helpless and under the command of someone else, they are at a very high risk of developing C-PTSD. Although this type of disorder is triggered by chronic-recurring trauma events, it still manifests itself with similar symptoms as those of post traumatic stress disorder and therefore may benefit from an intervention program that closely mirrors that of post traumatic stress disorder.

Gun violence, natural calamities, physical or sexual abuse are some of the trauma stressors associated with the onset of post traumatic stress disorder. The intensity and coping mechanisms will vary greatly depending on an individual’s mental strength and immediate support system. Understanding the cause(s) as well as being on the look out for signs and symptoms of distress is important in order to incorporate intervention measures and post traumatic stress disorder treatment regime where necessary.

   Read more on Post traumatic stress disorder

PTSD Test

In order to accurately diagnose if an individual is at the risk of developing or is already experiencing post traumatic stress disorder, there are a few guidelines to follow. Experts have formulated general questions for would-be patients to honestly respond to in an attempt to assess the nature of trauma and the intensity of emotional distraught.

1. Have you been exposed to a life threatening event?

If your answer to the above question is YES, then you could be at the risk of developing post traumatic stress disorder! Exposure to tragic events such as witnessing a violent crime, the death of a loved one, war, shooting, being a victim of rape or having been involved in an accident, are all classic ingredients to a bad case of post traumatic stress disorder.

2. How did you react to the traumatic situation?

After exposure to a trauma, did you feel overcome with fear and an intensely overwhelming sense of helplessness? Although individual reactions to trauma differ, the bottom line is that emotions aroused after a trauma can pose a crippling threat to normal daily life and a potential development of post traumatic stress disorder.

3. Are your thoughts constantly flooded by accounts of the traumatic event?

If you are constantly experiencing intrusive thoughts that vividly recount what happened during a trauma inducing event, you are very much in the red zone and at the risk of suffering from post traumatic stress disorder. Some individuals will even attest to the fact that they can almost form a mental picture of the tragedy and this can bring back the fear and pain, causing more distress.

4. Are you re-living the traumatic event severally?

Recurrence of unpleasant memories and emotions associated to trauma stressors can lead to the individual often feeling as though they are re-living that nightmarish experience all over again. When such episodes strike, they can live you feeling vulnerable and helplessly fearful. This are classic signs of a case of post traumatic stress disorder creeping slowly into your life. As a result, anxiety and depression are prevalent.

5. Are you experiencing uncontrollable anger and agitation?

The onset of post traumatic stress disorder can be pinpointed by bouts of anger and agitation that suddenly overwhelm an individual even with the slightest of irritations. If you find it hard to manage your anger outbursts and are an increased risk of hurting yourself and others in the process, then you could be prone to post traumatic stress disorder.

6. Is insomnia gradually taking over your life?

Changes in sleep patterns following a traumatic experience can manifest themselves, leaving you with troubles falling asleep or staying asleep long enough to get adequate rest. When this happens it can lead to physical strain, aches and pains as well as anxiety. Sometimes sleep can be interrupted by nightmares and dreams associated to the trauma stressors.

7. Are you avoiding social events?

Shying away from social gatherings and situations where you have to interact with the general public, and even sometimes close family and friends, is likely to happen after a trauma. Although not everyone who has experienced trauma displays such behavior, most individuals are overwhelmed by emotions such that they do not feel competent enough to engage in any social interactions. It is during such periods when depression can strike!

8. Are you shutting down emotionally?

Blocking parts of or all of any emotions that may be aroused by a recalculation of the traumatic event has been a defensive mechanism that some individuals deploy. This can lead to emotional shutdown and sometimes even numbing of feelings. Post traumatic stress disorder is associated with such symptoms.

How to Deal with PTSD Flashbacks

Dealing with PTSD can be challenging and trauma flashbacks make it even harder! Flashbacks are vivid recounts of a traumatic event that keep haunting an individual sometimes to a point that day to day functioning is crippled. Managing flashbacks can be an overwhelming undertaking due to their unpredictability. In most cases flashbacks will occur as a result of encountering trauma stressors associated to the original experience.

The following tips are meant to aid an individual dealing with trauma induced flashbacks cope better:

1. Be aware of your trauma stressors!

Finding a solution to any problem demands that you first identify what is the root cause. Knowing your flashback triggers is key to formulating a counter action in order to squarely deal with the situation before it escalates. If you are able to prevent flashbacks from occurring by simply avoiding situations that trigger them, then you are better positioned to win that battle!

2. Fine tune your awareness to telltale signs!

Although deemed unpredictable, flashbacks can be pinpointed early on if you stay vigilant and proactive to those signs that lead up to their occurrence. Fine tuning your awareness to these signs will not only put you one step ahead of flashback attacks, but will also help you to nip them in the bud before they cripple your self awareness. Such telltale signs include feelings of fuzziness, slowly slipping away from present state and completely being taken over by what to others would feel like you are in a trance.

3. Deploy a buddy system of reliable helpers!

Once you have deciphered which situations and what activities trigger flashbacks, it is important to stay connected to a supportive group of reliable individuals, whether friends or relatives. For instance, should you feel that driving through a bridge, going to the grocery store alone or even being left at home on your own puts you at a heightened risk of experiencing flashbacks, then it would be great to have a friend on your side. Do not go through it alone as you could be at risk of hurting yourself.

4. If symptoms persist, seek professional help!

When push comes to shove, seeing a professional may be your last resort. Check with a mental health specialist and get the help you need to deal with post traumatic stress disorder. By so doing you will be well on your way to eliminating the unpleasantness associated with flashbacks and PTSD generally. Therapy, medication or a combination of both may be recommended depending on what is deemed fit for your needs. Never self medicate, you could be at risk of an overdose or potentially lose of life!

PTSD Treatment

Once someone in your family or friends seems like suffering from PTSD, immediately seek help for increase chances of overcoming the disorder. Talking about the traumatic events in your life is the first step of treatments before taking medications. A detailed treatment plan made by doctors must be followed.

Patients will be evaluated first to assist the level and degree of their individual needs. Patients can also benefit from a mental health specialist with the recommendation from a doctor or expert. Counselors, community psychiatric nurses, psychologist, and psychiatrists are some of the specialists that patients can consult.

If the patients’ symptoms are mild and only present for less than a month after the traumatic experience, watchful waiting may be recommended. Watchful waiting is the close monitoring of the patient’s PTSD symptoms if it became worse or improved. It must be followed by an appointment within a month.

Psychotherapy is useful in the treatment of post-traumatic stress disorder. The psychotherapist will listen to patient’s problems and offer solutions to overcome them. If the patient has severe PTSD, both medication and psychotherapy are recommended.

Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) is a kind of psychotherapy that will teach patient’s on how to change their recurring negative thoughts. If a patient shows severe signs of PTSD, they can be treated through trauma-focused CBT. It uses mental images of the traumatic experiences that help the patient go through the trauma and control their fears.

Another treatment is eye movement desensitization and reprocessing (EMDR). Patients are engaged in making side-to-side eye movements while remembering the traumatic event. EMDR is proven to reduce distress level of patients.

After undergoing post traumatic stress disorder treatment, medication may then follow with the doctors’ recommendations and prescriptions.

Conclusion

A person, who has developed a pattern of behavior and symptoms after a traumatic incident such as near-death experiences, kidnapping, sexual and physical abuse, war experiences, drug abuse and even natural calamities, may be suffering from post traumatic stress disorder or PTSD. Examples of the changes in their behaviors are feeling of detachment from their emotions and physical bodies also known as dissociation, a dream-like state, constant flashbacks, erratic and hyperactive behaviors, easily startled, disturbing sleep, anxiety, total lack of self-confidence, fear of people and difficulty in maintaining relationships.

Although these are very overwhelming, anyone can go through post traumatic stress disorder treatment. And getting the appropriate treatment is necessary so you can prevent any further damage and symptoms from getting worse. Failure to treat these symptoms can be disabling. (Some PTSD patients still blame themselves for what happened. They may also feel incredibly guilty for not doing enough, or simply for surviving when the others did not.)

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