When you are in any form of danger, it is totally natural to feel afraid. Whether you are involved in a car crash or face some kind of injury, the body’s response is in many cases shown as fear. This emotion then starts a chain-reaction in your body to prepare you to defend against the danger or to avoid the danger altogether. But if you have an anxiety condition such as post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), the body’s natural reaction is altered or even damaged. As a result, individuals with PTSD may feel extremely stressed or frightened even when there is no longer a form of danger present.
In many cases, PTSD originates from a traumatic event such as being in combat, abuse, rape or serious injury. The Department of Veterans Affairs states that between seven and eight percent of the population have PTSD at some point in their lives, and as many as 5.2 million adults have PTSD during a given year.
According to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America some of the symptoms of PTSD include the following:
- Flashbacks where you relive the traumatic events again and again – This also includes physical symptoms such as sweating or having your heartbeat race faster than normal.
- Bad dreams and nightmares – This can lead to a lack of sleep or just not sleeping soundly.
- Frightening thoughts – When you experience these, you fixate on terrible things happen to you or those around you.
- Staying away from specific places, events or objects – This is because these reminders of the experience may trigger bad memories or flashbacks.
- Feeling emotionally numb – This causes you to feel very distant from people and can even make others think you are irresponsive.
- Feelings of strong guilt, depression or worry – These emotions can even combine together and just make you feel miserable. You may not even know you are depressed. You just have a negative outlook and others will likely notice this condition before you do.
- Losing interest in activities that were enjoyable in the past – If you once really enjoyed sports or being outdoors, you will do these activities less and less—maybe even stop doing them altogether.
- Having trouble remembering the dangerous event – Stress and lack of sleep can also amplify this problem.
- Being easily startled – For example, a lawn mower or car backfiring could make you think you are back in combat.
- Feeling tense or on edge – This could happen all the time or just when you sense physical triggers which remind you of the event.
- Having difficulty sleeping, and/or having angry outbursts – This will often appear as rage, when your emotions simply pour over and you cannot control them.
All of these symptoms may cause problems in your daily routine. Some symptoms will start in your mind, and others will be physical reminders of traumatic events
In some cases, PTSD is connected with alcohol or drug abuse and these actually worsen anxiety conditions and actually lead to depression. When you become sober, your condition can improve, but you still will need to have a strategy to help you with PTSD.
Talking with your doctor is a very important step to find treatment for your condition. Honestly share what symptoms you are experiencing and let them know how you are feeling. He or she can give you valuable insight to help you feel better. Your doctor may prescribe you medication, direct you to change your diet or even to try yoga or exercise to help with anxiety.
Talk therapy—also called psychotherapy—is a common form of treatment for anxiety conditions. As you talk about your problems, you feel better, receive advice for your specific situation and find hope. This takes time and is not an overnight process. If you need help finding a good therapist, please reach out to one of our counselors.
It is also important that you get support from others with PTSD. When you get support you will see that you are not alone. There are many others who understand your situation completely. If you served in the armed forces, you can seek support from others who have served by going to the VA hospital. You can get more information by going to the National Center for PTSD here.
As you move forward in treatment, try to be aware of events that you know are triggers. You cannot avoid all events or places that may trigger anxiety. Rather, be intentional and mindful to know when you are more likely to have any flashbacks. Use good judgment, and talk with your support group to see how they handle these challenges.
Do not hesitate to get help if needed. If you feel that you want to harm yourself or even commit suicide, seek out help immediately. If these are potential side effects from any medication you are taking, be sure to communicate this with your doctor. Also be sure to disclose any issues with substance abuse so the proper medication will be prescribed if it is needed. Please keep in mind that PTSD therapy is a life-long process. Certain events and triggers may make PTSD worse or better.