What is Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder
Updated: Aug 4
Have you ever experienced something terrifying, emotionally exhausting, and surreal that keeps haunting you long after it is over? It could be a horrendous accident, a tragic loss of a loved one, a bully at work, or a vicious cycle of abuse. Even the thought of that encounter is strong enough to make you anxious.
Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) occurs when past traumatic experiences intrude on the present. It is when the daunting past keeps creeping back in thoughts, smells, sights, and touch, leaving you shattered and broken. The relived experience feels like it is transpiring for the first time.
PTSD is not a condition reserved for war veterans. It can happen even in everyday living where there are no physical wars. Someone who has lost a job and stayed for months without employment can get PTSD each time they send out their resume. Later, when they secure a job, they may stock up on groceries for fear of finances running low after living paycheck to paycheck for a while. The very thought of lack can throw you off emotionally because their worst fear is lack.
How Does PTSD Occur?
As the name suggests, PTSD develops after experiencing a traumatic experience. It is not that the scars from that incident did not heal or there was no closure. It is more like the brain became overwhelmed when processing the incident's details, juggling up what you saw, felt, experienced, and your interpretation of things.
Consequently, the brain retrieves a faulty memory when sights, sounds, thoughts, or feelings of the traumatic event surface. Usually, it brings the memory, but with the sensation that it is just about to occur. All you get is that you are living in a perpetual nightmare, trapped by your thoughts, lived-out experiences, emotions, and subconscious.
Furthermore, the cascading of events is beyond your control. You become a slave of the brain's mistake. Each time something from the trauma shows up, relive the entire experience afresh.
For example, a survivor of abuse becomes visibly shaken, anxious, tearful, afraid, or mad when they smell their abuser's cologne. Despite knowing their abuser is in jail. The survivor's brain only associates the scent with the danger that came with it. It transmits a warning alert, leaving the abuse survivor in a fight, flight, or freeze mode. The survivor reacts as though they are facing their jailed abuser, just from the familiar scent.
Similarly, a person who has experienced a live shoot-out will be terrified of loud bangs. A tire burst will leave them in an emotional frenzy because of the brain's misinterpretation. The reaction is beyond the person's control. The brain is screaming take cover, someone with a gun is doing rounds. You could be next. In reality, nothing of the sort is happening.
Signs of PTSD
PTSD is a nerve-wracking mood disorder. Nobody wants to remain trapped in their worst nightmare. PTSD awareness is vital to your healing journey. It helps you understand the condition better, learn to manage symptoms, and find the courage to seek treatment.
Symptoms of PTSD include:
A person with PTSD vividly relives their traumatic experience. Flashbacks go beyond memory recollections - they are intense feelings, physical reactions, overwhelming thoughts, and visualizations of the traumatic incident.
Intrusive memories are mental pictures of the traumatic event that cross the mind uninvited. They occur in visual, audible, smells, tastes, and bodily sensations, pointing to a specific aspect of the traumatic experience. They always bring with them a surge of strong negative emotions.
Every PTSD incident flares up anxiety to the highest degree. Anxiety increases your worries, fear, agitation, unsettledness, irritability, and emotional distress. It leaves you proactively looking for potential threats, highly distrustful, and extremely wary or alert over impending doom. The fear of looming danger also triggers people with PTSD to isolate themselves to hide away from the perils that lurk.
Nightmares give PTSD its backbone. It reinforces the traumatic event, which, in turn, worsens the condition. Every nightmare concerning the event increases the severity of the condition's symptoms. Worse still, nightmares disrupt sleep patterns. A quick fix is usually to avoid sleeping.
The disturbing nature of the agonizing dreams interrupts sleep as well. Insomnia and restlessness interfere with daily functioning. They also diminish concentration, augment physical and mental exhaustion, and yield hopelessness.
The despair of living in a never-ending nightmare pushes people with PTSD to indulge in things that may provide temporary relief. They may overuse sleeping pills to get rid of insomnia. They may drown their misery in alcohol and drugs. Additionally, it is common for them to chase their demons by entertaining suicidal thoughts or attempting suicide.
Constantly living in a state of fear, worry, hopelessness, defeat, and entrapment will trigger depression. Depression is a mood disorder characterized by ongoing sadness. It feeds on PTSD and strengthens it through negative thinking, despair, self-worthlessness, isolation, and self-loath. Depression makes the person feel like a burden - a liability to society.
Where Can One Find Help From PTSD?
PTSD left untreated can cause severe health outcomes. The condition cannot resolve on its own. The burden of living with the disease is not worth it when there are plenty of interventions available. Psychology experts use psychotherapy and medication to treatment for PTSD. Counseling psychologists engage in talk therapy to guide and empower PTSD patients to rise above their past traumatic experiences.
Therapists use different techniques to help patients control thoughts, emotions, and behavior. They also utilize therapy to strengthen patients to find the courage to face their trauma and subdue it. Medicine is essential in balancing brain chemicals that control PTSD.
At Isha Health, we provide ketamine-assisted psychotherapy for people with depression, anxiety, and PTSD. Ketamine administered in low doses tears down psychological walls, enabling patients to self-reflect and process their trauma. We use our wealth of resources, expertise, and research-based techniques during therapy to help patients in their recovery journey. If you would like to speak to our medical team, click here for immediate assistance.