Depending on the individual, PTSD effects can activate only occasionally or on the daily for others. How does PTSD dictate a person’s daily life?
PTSD effects can be incredibly challenging to deal with. Life is usually quite unpredictable and it’s difficult to know when a triggering situation will arise. Living with untreated post-traumatic stress disorder often leads individuals to isolate themselves. Rather than potentially dealing with the effects of an episode, many choose to stay home.
What exactly is post-traumatic stress disorder, though? Most commonly known for its impact on veterans when they return from combat, PTSD affects approximately 3.6 percent of adults in the United States ages 18 and older. Most of the people living with PTSD are in the 45 to 59-year-old age range. Nearly eight out of every 100 people experience it at some point in their life.
Spending time on a battlefield is not the only cause of PTSD, though, and many situations can trigger a response. Continue reading to learn more about PTSD effects and how they influence the lives of those who struggle with them.
What Is PTSD and How Is It Caused?
Post-traumatic stress disorder, or PTSD, is a disorder developed as a result of living through a dangerous, scary, or life-threatening event. It is not one you are born with. Whenever someone experiences or is exposed to a traumatic event, their body kicks into “fight or flight” mode. This natural response occurs as a response to fear and triggers a rush of adrenaline that helps you quickly decide whether to defend yourself against danger or to avoid it.
Once the event is over and some time passes, the adrenaline rush subsides and your fight or flight response dissipates. Some individuals appear to return back to a regular state until something relatively normal happens that causes their brain to kick back into fight or flight mode. Though this might occur for a few weeks following the situation, for some this response does not go away.
How do you know if you have post-traumatic stress disorder, though? A psychiatrist diagnoses you when these PTSD effects continue for at least a month and are severe enough to interfere with your life. Not everyone experiences their symptoms to the same degree or for the same length of time.
The severity depends on previous exposure to trauma and the event itself.
Some events that can trigger PTSD effects include:
- Exposure to war or combat, either as a soldier or a civilian
- Serious car accidents
- Violent, close-range assaults like a mugging or a stabbing
- Acts of terrorism
- School shootings
- Witnessing a violent crime such as an assault or murder
- Prolonged, extensive, or severe sexual abuse or assault
- Being kidnapped or held hostage
- Severe natural disasters such as an earthquake, flood, or fire
- Extreme neglect, especially during developmental childhood years
The Symptoms of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder
Now that you know what types of events cause PTSD, what do PTSD effects look like? There are four symptoms an adult must exhibit for at least a month in order to receive a post-traumatic stress disorder diagnosis:
- A minimum of one re-experiencing symptom
- At least one avoidance symptom
- A minimum of two arousal and reactivity symptoms
- At least two cognition and mood symptoms
Re-experiencing symptoms refer to reliving the event, either through flashbacks, bad dreams, or scary thoughts. These episodes of re-experiencing are almost always accompanied by physical arousal symptoms.
An avoidance symptom means the person will either avoid physical locations, events, or objects that remind them of the event, or thoughts and feelings that remind them. These avoidance symptoms can lead to extreme interferences with daily life, especially if the location is somewhere they frequent.
Arousal and Reactivity Symptoms
An arousal or reactivity symptom has to do with physical reactions to triggering external events. Common arousal and reactivity symptoms include being easily startled, feeling on edge and tense, having difficulties sleeping, or being quick to anger.
Cognition and Mood Symptoms
Cognition and mood symptoms refer to the mind. Some types of cognition and mood symptoms include difficulties in recalling or remembering specific details of the traumatic event or signs of depression. Some people with post-traumatic stress disorder may also develop additional mental illnesses as a result of the event.
How PTSD Affects Children
People can develop PTSD at any age, from young children to elderly individuals. PTSD effects reveal themselves somewhat differently in children, though. They show many of the signs seen in adults along with a few others expressed specifically by children. Along with general symptoms, children with post-traumatic stress disorder:
- Wet the bed after already learning how to use the toilet
- Losing the ability or refusing to talk
- Acting out the traumatic event while playing alone or with other children
- Becoming overly dependent upon or clingy with a parent or other adult
Not every child shows the same symptoms. Certain children may experience all of them while others exhibit only one or two. The number of symptoms doesn’t determine the PTSD diagnosis; it’s the presence of them in the first place.
How to Treat PTSD Effects
Although PTSD effects can be extreme they are not always permanent. With the right combination of rigorous therapy and medication, individuals can minimize or eliminate the symptoms of their PTSD.
If symptoms are severe enough to significantly interfere with everyday life, intensive treatment may be helpful. Hawaii Island Recovery offers various types of treatment to help individuals learn how to handle their post-traumatic stress disorder. If you or someone you know needs help, you can call our admissions office at 877-721-3556 to learn more about our program!