Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)

  • 15-Jun-2019   
  • | Dr. Sundus Shafat Ahmad
  • | 681
  • Average Reading Time: 2 minutes and 40 seconds   

It is natural for people who go through traumatic events to feel scared and have temporary difficulty coping with it. Most people usually recover from the symptoms and get better with time and good self-care. However, you may have PTSD if the symptoms worsen, last for months or even years and interfere with your daily functioning.

What is PTSD?

Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is a mental health disorder that develops in certain individuals who have witnessed or experienced a terrifying, scary event such as physical assault, childhood abuse or an accident.

Causes

The official cause of PTSD is unknown, but it is thought to be caused by a mix of certain factors including:

  • Stressful experiences
  • Inherited mental health risks
  • Inherited personality features
  • Regulation of chemicals in the brain and release of hormones in case of stress

Signs and Symptoms

PTSD symptoms usually begin early, within a few months of the event but sometimes, they do not appear for years. These lead to significant problems in your work, social and personal life.

Symptoms can vary in intensity over time for each individual. They are generally grouped into four categories:

Intrusive Memories

  • Recurrent, troubling memories
  • Flashbacks
  • Upsetting nightmares
  • Severe emotional or physical distress to reminders

Avoidance

  • Avoiding talking or thinking about the event
  • Avoiding places, people and things that remind you of the event

Negative changes in thinking and mood

  • Negative thoughts
  • Memory issues
  • Detachment from loved ones
  • Feeling numb
  • Inability to maintain close relationships

Arousal

  • Easily frightened
  • Being over alert
  • Self-destructive behavior
  • Trouble sleeping
  • Aggressiveness
  • Overwhelming shame

Treatment

PTSD treatment will provide a sense of control over your life. The primary treatment is psychotherapy, but medication is also used. These will teach you how to address your symptoms and learn coping mechanisms for whenever they arise, thereby improving symptoms considerably.

Psychotherapy

Also known as talk therapy, it requires the individual to talk with a mental health professional from 6-12 weeks. The different types include:

  • Cognitive therapy

This helps you recognize their negative thinking and make sense of their bad memories. It also restructures those thoughts and shows you what happened in a realistic way.

  • Exposure therapy

This behavioral therapy helps you deal with the fear and control it. It involves gradual exposure to the trauma in a safe way so you can learn to cope with it in a safe way.

Medications

Several types of medications can help improve symptoms. These include:

  • Antidepressants

This is the most common type used which helps manage some of the symptoms such as depression, worry and anger. It also improves sleep problems and focus.

  • Anti-anxiety medications

These are generally used for a short time and help relieve extreme anxiety.

PTSD Research

Over the last decade, progress surrounding research on the mental and biological foundations of PTSD has resulted in scientists concentrating more on the underlying reasons why people have a number of reactions to trauma.

In a recent study, researchers may have come close to improve a common treatment of PTSD by altering the way the brain responds to fearful situations. It offers a potential improvement to exposure therapy. The idea is to simply replace an expected threat with a harmless sound which will lead to a long-lasting feeling of safety.


A Clinical Microbiologist by profession, Sundus is an avid reader, full time people person, always looking to make the most of life, the 'healthy' way.

Dr. Sundus Shafat Ahmad
MBBS (DU), MD (RGUHS)