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Heart Centered Wellness: PTSD

Post-traumatic Stress Disorder

Written by: Rev. Dr. Sha’Leda Mirra, Ph.D., M.Div., M.S., LCSW, CAP

What is PTSD

After experiencing a startling, terrifying, or deadly event, some individuals may begin to experience symptoms that characterize post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). While fear is a normal emotion both during and after a terrible event, fear causes the body to go through a number of split-second modifications that aid in defending against or avoiding danger. This normal "fight-or-flight" response is aimed to defend from harm. After trauma, almost everyone will have a variety of reactions, although most individuals find that their symptoms naturally resolve. PTSD may be identified in those who continuing to have symptoms for months or even years after. Even when they are not in danger, those with PTSD continue to experience episodes of worry or fear.

While the majority of traumatized individuals, though not all, have transient symptoms, most do not go on to acquire persistent (chronic) PTSD. The onset of PTSD symptoms can be triggered by other events, such as the abrupt, unexpected passing of a loved one, or a medical diagnosis. The majority of the time, symptoms appear within 3 months of the traumatic occurrence, although they might also appear years afterwards. Most people who go through traumatic events may have temporary difficulty adjusting and coping, but with time, appropriate treatment, and good self-care, symptoms resolve. If the symptoms get worse, last for months or even years, and interfere with your day-to-day functioning, you may have PTSD. Because PTSD takes different courses, it is important not to ignore the signs. The problem can become chronic in certain persons.[1]

PTSD can manifest at any age. This includes those who have served in the military, children, or have experienced abuse, physical or sexual violence, disasters, accidents, or other traumatic situations. Approximately 7 to 8 out of every 100 people will develop PTSD at some stage in their lives, according to the National Center for PTSD. Women are more inclined than men to experience PTSD, and some people may be predisposed to the disorder due to genetics. According to the PTSD Alliance, “more than 13 million Americans have PTSD and an estimated 7.8 percent of Americans will experience PTSD at some point in their lives, with women (10.4%) twice as likely as men (5%) to develop PTSD. About 3.6 percent of U.S. adults aged 18 to 54 (5.2 million people) have PTSD during the course of a given year.”[2] Not every person with PTSD has experienced a life-threatening situation. After a close companion or a member of their family is in danger or suffers trauma, some acquire PTSD through vicarious exposure. PTSD can also result from a loved one dying suddenly and unexpectedly, or secondary exposure to traumatic incidents such as police brutality.[3] According to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America “67 percent of people exposed to mass violence have been shown to develop PTSD, a higher rate than those exposed to natural disasters or other types of traumatic events”.[4]

Diagnostic Criterion

PTSD can be identified by a medical professional with experience treating patients with mental illness, such as a psychiatrist or psychologist. An adult must experience all of the following for at least one month in order to be diagnosed with PTSD:

· Re-experiencing the trauma through intrusive distressing recollections of the event, flashbacks, and nightmares.

· Emotional numbness and avoidance of places, people, and activities that are reminders of the trauma.

· Increased arousal such as difficulty sleeping and concentrating, feeling jumpy, and being easily irritated and angered. [5]

How it impacts daily life

A person's capacity to work, carry out daily tasks, or relate to family and friends may be impacted by PTSD. As they attempt to suppress their thoughts and feelings in order to erase unpleasant memories, those experiencing symptoms or diagnosed with PTSD may seem indifferent or aloof. They may withdraw or decline taking part in family activities or refuse offers of assistance; other family members may feel isolated as a result of this. Those with PTSD require the support and compassion of their loved ones, especially when undiagnosed, as they may not realize what is wrong or that they require assistance.

Reliving the event through distracting ideas, which can appear as flashbacks, nightmares, and other forms, is one of the characteristics of PTSD. These uncontrollable and unpredictable thoughts and nightmares can make it difficult to sleep or operate normally throughout the day. When these intrusive thoughts happen, the sufferer experiences an emotional state of psychological anguish that can persist for a while after the thought, a flashback, or dream has occurred, making it harder to resume your regular activities. Many PTSD sufferers employ avoidance behaviors to stay away from individuals, locations, or items that trigger their traumatic memories. This kind of avoidance can result in growing loneliness and dread, which hinders the ability to succeed in the outside world. They may isolate from friends, coworkers, and even family in an effort to feel "safe." Unfortunately, as you turn inward and disconnect, leaving you lacking any genuine ties, this environment can be hardly safe.[6]

Self-Care Strategies and Treatment for PTSD

Medication, psychotherapy (often known as "talk" therapy), or a combination of the two are the main therapies for PTSD. A treatment that is effective for one person might not be effective for another because everyone is unique and PTSD affects individuals in different ways. Anyone with PTSD should receive treatment from a mental health professional who has experience with the condition. Some PTSD sufferers might have to undergo various therapeutic interventions before settling on one that effectively manages symptoms. It is important to note that individuals with PTSD may also experience panic disorder, depression, anxiety, substance misuse, and suicidal thoughts.

Medications: Antidepressants (SSRI’s) are the most researched class of drug for PTSD treatment, and may help manage symptoms like melancholy, hypervigilance, rage, and disassociation. Specific PTSD symptoms such as nightmares and sleep issues may require other medications. To determine the pharmaceutical combination, in addition to the appropriate dose, healthcare professionals and patients’ collaboration is essential.

Psychotherapy: Talking with a professional in the field of mental health is called psychotherapy, which is occasionally used to treat mental illnesses. Psychotherapy can take place in a group setting or one-on-one. PTSD talk therapy sessions can run longer than the typical 6 to 12 weeks. According to research, getting support from your friends and family might be crucial for healing. People with PTSD can benefit from a variety of psychotherapies. Some specifically target PTSD symptoms. Other treatments concentrate on issues with the family, the workplace, or society. Depending on the needs of each patient, the doctor or psychotherapist may mix various therapy modalities.[7]

A Christian Perspective for the Treatment of PTSD:

For those that are followers of Christ, we know that beyond the psychological, psychopharmacological, scientific, and medical treatments available we have access to a greater power for our healing. By remembering scriptures such as 2 Timothy 1:7 God did not give us a spirit that makes us afraid but a Spirit of power and love and self-control (NET), and Philippians 4:6-8 Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God; and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus (NKJV), we realize we have access to freedom and healing through the power of God. While God can use anything as a tool or resource for our healing, it is important to know how impactful our beliefs, practices, and our professions are in our journey towards wholeness. Through prayer, fasting, decree's, confessions, scripture reading, and integrating contemplative time into our daily lives, we will find a refreshing communion and peace for our souls. Remember God's promises to you and one such promise is found in Isaiah 41:10 Fear not, for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God; I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with my righteous right hand. Connecting with a Christian counselor will assist you in integrating spirituality into your course of treatment. God at the epicenter of all that pertains to us and all that is prescribed for us is instrumental to the prospering our our souls.

Christian Intervention: Decreeing Biblical Scripture

As a Christian Therapist and Pastor, I believe in the integration of God in therapy. As a healing strategy I recommend spending time in prayer (15-30 min) asking God to reveal the dominant thought and/or feeling that is impacting daily life. Once this is revealed, find 20 scriptures around this area in your life and write them down in a notebook or type them in a phone or computer. Recite/Decree these scriptures daily for 30 days, allowing the word of God to saturate your life and then with expectation welcome the transformative power of God.

[1] [2] PTSD United. [3] [4] [5] [6] [7]

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