Understand PTSD

Edited by Grimm

The new Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM) 5th edition, was released in 2013. This manual is used by the medical community for guidance in diagnosing mental health disorders. It gives symptoms for a number of disorders, but has revised the definition of Post traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) with the 5th edition.

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PTSD is now in a different category, moved from a type of anxiety disorder to a new category of 'Trauma and Stress-Related disorders'. Now it is associated with experiencing or witnessing a traumatic external event. This means that PTSD may develop after experiencing a traumatic event, real or imagined (hearing about a tragedy). These events may invoke a strong sense of overwhelming fear and helplessness, and these feelings may be uncontrollable and unpredictable.

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What are the symptoms of PTSD?

PTSD may manifest itself within days of the traumatic event or years later.

Symptoms of PTSD may fluctuate, remain constant or come and go, and may include:

  1. 1
    Intrusive Thoughts:
    Nightmares, flashbacks, and memories are types of intrusive thought in regards to the traumatic event. Examples of triggers may be anniversaries, smells, sounds, or words.
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  2. 2
    There may be heightened feelings of vigilance, increased startle reaction, increased irritability, anger, temper, sleep disturbances. The mind keeps the body in a constant state of alertness, wary of potential danger.
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  3. 3
    Adverse change in mood or cognition:
    Symptoms may be feelings of detachment, isolation or disconnected for others. There may be decreased interest in pre-trauma activities, memory issues related to the event, distortion in regards to blame, whether towards self or others, and unable to release severe emotions related to the event.
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  4. 4
    This is avoiding reminders of the traumatic event and may be done by avoiding thoughts, feelings, people and places that are connected to the event. More information is available at the US Department of Veterans Affairs.
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Other Symptoms of PTSD May Also Be Present

There are many different ways PTSD can manifest, and no two people are exactly the same.

  1. 1
    Panic attacks:
    May bring on feelings of intense fear, which triggers the fight or flight process and may bring on physical symptoms of; increased heart rate, shortness of breath, sweating, chest pain, dizziness, headaches, abdominal pain, diarrhea, muscle pain and low back pain to name a few.
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  2. 2
    Problems in daily living:
    Difficulties with functioning at work, school or in social situations.
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  3. 3
    Substance Abuse:
    Abusing illegal and/or prescription drugs or alcohol as a manner to cope with the PTSD.
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  4. 4
    Relationship Issues:
    Feeling of mistrust may be common, fear of danger, difficulties with intimacy, feeling detached from others.
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  5. 5
    Feelings of persistent sadness, loss of interest in activities; feelings of guilt and shame; or hopelessness about the future.
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  6. 6
    Suicidal thoughts:
    thoughts about taking one's own life. If you or someone you know is thinking about suicide, call 1-800-273-TALK(8255).
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Tips for Self Help Coping with PTSD

PTSD recovery is a slow process.

Learning and participating with your own treatment may help to reduce your symptoms and decrease your anxiety.

  • Educate Yourself: It is important to learn about PTSD, it helps you to recognize symptoms and expectation in coping and resolving PTSD.
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  • Support: For many, support groups appear to help with coping and resolving some or most of the symptoms. Support can be one on one, or any size groups.
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  • Relaxation: Studies show that practicing relaxation techniques does lower stress levels within the body. Try different techniques to find the one that works best for you. Remember that relaxation techniques take practice and you will most likely not obtain total relaxation immediately. Think of it as retraining the brain, after being stuck on high alert, it needs to relearn relaxation.
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  • Avoid Substance Abuse: Alcohol is a depressant, and many drugs, both prescription and illegal are also depressants. You want to avoid the things that will hinder your recovery and potentially harm your health.
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  • Exercise: Physical exercise, walking, running or any other physical exertion helps to release the built up fight or flight hormones in your body which aids in a calming effect.
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  • Professional Assistance: It is important to seek the advice of a professional who is knowledgeable and has experience in treating PTSD. Since each person is different, the qualified professional will have the experience to know which treatment may be more successful than another one in treating PTSD.
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  • Friends and Family: It is important for friends and family to become educated about PTSD. It teaches them to take care of themselves and to better understand PTSD and what the person who has it is going through. PTSD can be an emotional roller coaster for friends and family, knowledge can help to keep things in perspective and hopefully alleviate caregiver burnout.
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  • If you have problems with any of these steps, ask a question for more help, or post in the comments section below.


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