Do you so badly want to move on, but feelings of fear, powerlessness, shame, or anger keep dragging you back through one of the worst experiences of your life?
Have months, or even years, gone by, but you still feel stuck thinking about– and trying not to think about– that terrible time?
You may be struggling with post-traumatic stress syndrome or PTSD.
Here are some important things you need to know:
1. PTSD is real. You are not imagining the pain or overreacting. Returning to life after trauma is hard without help. PTSD is not a moral failing or weakness. PTSD is a common response to trauma, affecting millions of people, regardless of age, gender, or social background. You are not alone.
2. Certain risk factors make PTSD more likely. The nature of the trauma, whether it was intentional harm by another person or a more impersonal disaster, may affect the severity of PTSD symptoms. A family history of depression, lack of support, and high levels of stress in daily life can exacerbate trauma as well.
3. PTSD symptoms affect the way you do life. PTSD keeps the distress, terror, or victimization of your trauma fresh. Your current life may be interrupted in the following ways:
- You relive the experience repeatedly. Nightmares and frightening, unwanted thoughts are common. Sights, smells, and sounds may trigger flashbacks or reflexes connected to your trauma.
- You are constantly on alert. The world is a dangerous place now. Insomnia, panic attacks, and difficulty developing trusting relationships may accompany a need to avoid being caught off guard.
- You don’t want to be reminded. You may find yourself avoid situations or conversations that label you a victim, a veteran, or a survivor.
- Your response to the trauma is physical. You may have headaches, digestive trouble, or muscle aches when you recall or try not to recall the trauma.
4. PTSD responds to treatment. You don’t have to continue to suffer. There are some very effective treatments for PTSD, like psychotherapy, support groups, and medication. The earlier you seek treatment the better. A qualified therapist can help you develop a treatment plan.
5. PTSD is alleviated by improved self-care. According to the National Center for PTSD, intentional self-care is important for coping after trauma. Take these positive steps:
- Relax. Use natural, healthy means of relaxing. Listening to music, breathing techniques, or massage may be good places to start.
- Connect. It’s difficult to get out of your own head if you’re isolated. Try to spend less time alone; seek out loved ones.
- Exercise. Physical activity is a key to improved health, strength, mood, and sleep. All of which can be problem areas for PTSD sufferers.
- Rest. The recovery time your mind and body need is provided by sleep. Do your best to get seven to nine hours per night. Avoid caffeine.
- Journal. Writing has been linked to stress reduction and is a healthy way to process your feelings.
- Avoid drugs and alcohol. Attempts to self-medicate usually just compound the problem and delay recovery.
6. PTSD is hard for some people to understand. Some people, even those who love you, don’t get it. Family therapy may be necessary if your family is struggling with your symptoms. Your loved ones may need a safe place to discuss what’s happening and to practice communicating in ways that will foster supportive interaction.
You’re not weak or abnormal because you are still affected by past trauma.
You simply need help to get through it.
If you think you might be suffering from PTSD, reach out to a mental health professional who can help you move on.