Do I Have PTSD?: Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder In Women
My personal experience with PTSD: I hope you are comfortable because it is storytime. Last December, I was in my first (and hopefully last) accident. I followed all the road protocols, looking left and right on a one-way street because that is necessary for living in Jamaica. Just as I was crossing the road, a motorcycle appeared out of nowhere and hit me flat on my back. Everything happened so fast; fear literally paralyzed me! I had hit my head on a car door (-cues the annoying migraine that won’t leave me alone…ever-), and there was also a burning sensation in my foot. Yet, all of that paled in comparison to the shock of everything that just happened, all I could do was cry (How you doin’ Etta?).
That little experience shook me up a lot. Weeks later, walking on the road was hell for me. I kept looking around because I felt like another motorcycle was just going to come out of thin air and hit me again. I was scared. Even up to this day, whenever I hear or see a motorcycle, I get so scared, my heart starts racing, and my eyes well up with tears. I have not been to a doctor to be sure if I have PTSD, so I will not diagnose myself, but the signs are there.
Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) is a mental disorder that sometimes arises after an individual has experienced or witnessed a life-threatening event, such as combat, a car accident, or sexual assault. If you have experienced any events along these lines, it is completely normal for you to feel on edge after it has occurred. It is also normal for you to not want to carry out your regular daily activities at this time. However, people typically begin feeling better after a few weeks or months— if it is that after a few months you are still experiencing these symptoms, then there is a possibility that you have developed PTSD.
Do I Have PTSD?
PTSD symptoms tend to occur quickly after the event but may appear months or even years later. Below are some common symptoms associated with PTSD:
- Reliving the event.
The person tends to have flashbacks of the event and constantly has nightmares—it is almost as if the event is on a loop. This can alter the victim’s daily routine.
- Experiencing hyperarousal.
This is when a person’s physiology is in high gear. It is normally constant and not triggered by anything. Hyperarousal causes you to always be on edge, have trouble sleeping, concentrating, and you are always looking out for danger.
- Avoiding situations related to the event.
Things that remind victims of the event may cause them to develop avoidance symptoms. They will try to avoid visiting areas that remind them of the event or even try not to think/talk about it.
PTSD is often treated by either psychotherapy, medication, or a combination of both. Whatever treatment you believe would work best for you, it is key that you get treated by a mental health professional who is experienced in PTSD.
- This is the act of talking to a mental health professional, such as a therapist. This can be done in a group setting or on a one-on-one basis, lasting from 6-12 weeks. Psychotherapy targets either the PTSD directly or social, familial, or other related factors. The doctor may also use both methods if he/she deems it fit for the patient.
- One form of therapy is Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT). CBT is the most effective form of therapy and focuses on the trauma event. It aims to identify, understand, and find ways to change behavior patterns. There are skills taught throughout this treatment that are practiced constantly to help the mental health of the patient. Within this psychotherapy, there are two components;
- Cognitive Restructuring—this allows persons to make sense of their bad memories. Trauma can change your thoughts and feelings, making you feel guilty for something that was not your fault. The doctor lets you view the trauma in a realistic way and helps to “connect the dots.”
- Exposure Therapy—this is a more hands-on form of therapy. It gradually exposes the victims to the trauma memory using imagery, writing or visiting the site of the traumatic event. The constant exposure of the trauma causes the individual to become less sensitive to it over time.
- The most common medication for treating PTSD is antidepressants. This can be used in combination with psychotherapy and is used to treat PTSD symptoms such as sadness and anger. Doctors can find medications that will be best to treat the symptoms that the person is experiencing. Do not treat yourself for PTSD!
Living with PTSD or symptoms of PTSD may make your life extremely difficult to navigate. If you have PTSD or recognize someone who does, encourage him/her to seek professional help. This is important because we do not want it to get worse. Yes, I will be taking my own advice ?.
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