If you have post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), you'll know how much it can mess with your everyday life...but don't worry, help is available and you can quickly overcome this challenging disorder.
PTSD Symptoms: Difficult, Yet Totally Normal
Perhaps you have experience nightmares or flashbacks. The anxiety which is brought on can show up without warning, like the worst house-guest! You may find yourself sucked into quicksand-like swamps of anger or guilt. The good news is that all of these symptoms are normal.
You might be thinking, "That's supposed to be good news?" But understanding where your symptoms are coming from is the first step towards healing. You can heal and recover form PTSD however it will take some time according to psychiatrist Molly Wimbiscus, MD.
What Exactly Is PTSD Anyway?
PTSD is a type of anxiety disorder which occurs in people who've experienced or witnessed a traumatic event. Sometimes that event is big and obvious; combat or life-threatening. Other times it develops after a series of smaller and less obvious stressful events such as repeated bullying or an unstable childhood.
How Is PTSD Treated (and is it worth the effort)?
Professional treatment can help make you feel better, and while medications can play a role in treating the disorder, the gold-standard treatment is cognitive-behavioral therapy or CBT. This type of therapy helps you reframe your memories of the trauma and learn new ways to manage those thoughts and feelings.
A big part of managing PTSD is having a skilled mental health professional working alongside you.
Dr. Wimbiscus, PTSD Expert
The ugly truth is that treatment isn't often easy. It will probably dig up memories or emotions you'd rather keep buried. After all that effort you may not feel as if you're making much progress. Yet through the healthcare process you will actually be overcoming your fears so say experts.
You may have to meet with your therapist a couple of times before you can get into the real work of treating PTSD, having patience during the process is key. However, you hard work will be worth it once you come out on the other side with fewer symptoms and better tools to manage your anxiety.
Can You Live A Normal Life With PTSD?
Whilst you're being treated for PTSD you can do a number of things to ensure that you get through each day a bit easier.
Embrace daily, often mundane, routines. It can be tempting to move into somewhat a coccoon which can trigger anxiety. Avoiding life only makes the symptoms worse. “Get up, take a shower, go to work or school every day — even if you don’t feel like it,” advises Dr. Wimbiscus.
Ask For Help
Often there are workarounds helping you manage your symptoms. If you need some adjustments to help you succeed then don't be afraid to ask. As an example, if you're having trouble concentrating for instance, ask the take tests to a quieter room or move to a quieter cubicle if you work in an office. By the way, you may even be eligible for medical leave while you undergo treatment.)
If you have supportive friends and family that's terrific! They probably want to help, so let them know what you need. Whether it's driving you to appointments, weekly coffee dates to get you out of the house or just a sympathetic ear.
Unfortunately, not everyone is so fortunate as to have family members that they can lean on. If your inner circle can't offer you the help you need, try looking for a local healthcare support group to connect with healthcare professionals or patients facing similar challenges. It's a really good help to have friends who get it. NAMI, the National Alliance on Mental Illness, can help you connect to support groups and resources in your area.
Avoid Drugs & Alcohol
You probably know that drowning your feelings in a bottle of whiskey isn't a long-term solution. Yes, it can be tempting to use substances to escape the hard parts of PTSD. Substance abuse though can be dangerous and make your recovery exponentially more difficult in the long run.
Don't Be Too Hard On Yourself
Be kind to yourself! That advice, I'm sure will make you roll your eyes - but sometimes, cheesy advice rings true. PTSD can cause feelings of guilt, shame and anger. When you're feeling down, it can help massively to remember that it's the disorder PTSD not yourself.
PTSD changes the structure of your brain, Dr. Wimbiscus points out. Think about that: Your brain is physically different than it used to be. PTSD is not caused by weakness, and you can’t just make yourself get over it.
So what should you do when you’re feeling hopeless? Remember that hopelessness, too, can be a symptom of the disorder.
“Focus on getting through your daily tasks, and know that it gets better. Allow time to do its work. It may be a struggle right now, but time is one of our greatest healers. There is hope.”