Most people associate PTSD with military personnel who have served in combat. Other persons at risk for developing PTSD include those who have experienced an overwhelming life experience, especially if the event feels unpredictable and uncontrollable.
PTSD can affect those who personally experience the catastrophe, those who witness it, and those who pick up the pieces afterwards, including emergency workers and law enforcement officers. It can even occur in the friends or family members of those who went through the actual trauma.
PTSD develops differently from person to person. While the symptoms of PTSD most commonly develop in the hours or days following the traumatic event, it can sometimes take weeks, months, or even years before they appear.
Traumatic events that can lead to PTSD include, but are not limited to:
- Natural disasters
- Car or plane crashes
- Sudden death of a loved one
- Sexual or physical abuse
- Childhood neglect
Signs and symptoms of PTSD
The symptoms of PTSD can arise suddenly, gradually, or come and go over time. Sometimes symptoms appear seemingly out of the blue. At other times, they are triggered by something that reminds you of the original traumatic event, such as a noise, an image, certain words, or a smell.
While everyone experiences PTSD differently, there are three main types of symptoms:
- Re-experiencing the traumatic event
- Avoiding reminders of the trauma
- Increased anxiety and emotional arousal
Other common symptoms of PTSD include:
- Feeling detached from others and emotionally numb
- Sense of a limited future (you don’t expect to live a normal life span, get married, have a career)
- Anger and irritability
- Guilt, shame, or self-blame
- Substance abuse
- Feelings of mistrust and betrayal
- Depression and hopelessness
- Suicidal thoughts and feelings
- Feeling alienated and alone
- Physical aches and pains
If you suspect that you or a loved one has PTSD, it’s important to seek help right away. The sooner PTSD is confronted, the easier it is to overcome. If you’re reluctant to seek help, keep in mind that PTSD is not a sign of weakness, and the only way to overcome it is to confront what happened to you and learn to accept it as a part of your past. This process is much easier with the guidance and support of an experienced therapist
Types of Treatment for PTSD
Family Therapy- Since PTSD affects both you and those close to you, family therapy can be especially productive. Family therapy can help your loved ones understand what you’re going through. It can also help everyone in the family communicate better and work through relationship problems caused by PTSD symptoms. Family Support Services has counselors that specialize in Family Therapy.
EMDR (Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing) incorporates elements of cognitive-behavioral therapy with eye movements or other forms of rhythmic, left-right stimulation, such as hand taps or sounds. Eye movements and other bilateral forms of stimulation are thought to work by “unfreezing” the brain’s information processing system, which is interrupted in times of extreme stress. Family Support Services has counselors that specialize in EDMR.
Animal Assisted Therapy, including equine therapy, has shown evidenced-based efficacy in patients including war veterans with PTSD, depression, anxiety, attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder, conduct disorders, dissociative disorders, and other chronic mental illnesses. Family Support Services currently offers equine therapy to families in our domestic violence shelter, Veterans and family members, and others who may benefit.
Medication is sometimes prescribed to people with PTSD to relieve secondary symptoms of depression or anxiety. Antidepressants such as Prozac and Zoloft are the medications most commonly used for PTSD. While antidepressants may help you feel less sad, worried, or on edge, they do not treat the causes of PTSD.
When looking for a therapist for PTSD, seek out mental health professionals who specialize in the treatment of trauma and PTSD. You can start by calling the FSS main office at 806-342-2500, or our crisis line at 806-374-5433, or toll free 800-749-9026.
You can also ask your doctor if he or she can provide a referral to therapists with experience treating trauma. You may also want to ask other trauma survivors for recommendations, or call a local mental health clinic, psychiatric hospital, or counseling center.
The Amarillo VA Hospital and Vet Center are also valuable resources for local Veterans.
To Find Out More
- MedlinePlus medlineplus.gov
- National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH)
- National Center for PTSD (U.S. Dept. of Veterans Affairs) www.ncptsd.va.gov/
- National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke www.ninds.nih.gov
Family Support Services of Amarillo