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Beating Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)

Beating Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)
June is National Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder Awareness Month. Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is a psychological disorder that occurs in response to an overwhelming or traumatic event. While you may think that PTSD only occurs in veterans, sadly,  approximately 1 in 11 people are diagnosed with PTSD in their lifetime, according to the APA.
 
This article explores what defines a traumatic event and PTSD, as well as a few holistic options for healing.
 
So What’s Considered Trauma?
 
Trauma can occur in various ways, but a few experiences are generally known to be traumatic. These include:
  • Abuse or neglect
  • Sexual or physical assault
  • Divorce
  • Family or parental abandonment
  • Incarceration
  • Job loss
  • Natural disasters
  • Physical injury
  • Serious illness
  • Terrorism
  • Violence
  • Witnessing a crime, accident, or death

These horrifying experiences trigger an extreme amount of fear and an overwhelming amount of stress. While some people can recover over time with little to no symptoms, some may feel "stuck" in this constant state of fear and danger, without any real threat present. When this occurs, it may be a sign of PTSD.
 
Our Stress Response
 
When we're faced with a life-threatening event, our nervous system activates the stress response. A variety of hormones are released, causing physiological reactions to prepare the body to defend itself. Our heart rate rises, breathing quickens, and muscles tense.
 
When the crisis is over, our hormone levels need some time to return to normal. It's essential to note that PTSD does not develop according to an event but our response to it. For most people, these symptoms disappear in a matter of days or weeks. But for others, these symptoms may vanish completely and resurface again later.

Symptoms of PTSD
 
PTSD is defined by 4 categories, according to the DSM-5. Symptoms often arise within the first few months following an event, but in some cases, may not even appear until months, even years later.  If symptoms last longer than 4 weeks or interfere with work/home life, it may be a sign of PTSD.
 
Categories: 

  • Avoidance: Avoiding reminders of thoughts, people, memories, or conversations related to the traumatic event.
  • Intrusion: Feeling distressed by trauma memories, intrusive thoughts, or nightmares.
  • Thought & Mood Changes: Feelings of blame or guilt, loss of interest, or disconnection from others.
  • Arousal & Reactivity: Sleep and concentration difficulties, hyperarousal, irritability, or aggression. 
While everyone experiences symptoms differently, PTSD can also look like depression, stress,  anxiety, amongst other mental health conditions.
 
Holistic Approach In Treating PTSD
 
Not everyone who endures trauma develops PTSD, and not everyone requires treatment. But for many, these symptoms can be disabling and intense. With the proper holistic and psychological support, PTSD is treatable. A holistic approach allows the survivor to repair their body and mind to help them live a happier, healthier life.
 
Here are a few treatment options for treating PTSD:
 
Therapy and Counseling. If you are experiencing symptoms of trauma, you may be diagnosed with PTSD. Treatment will depend on these symptoms and may include psychotherapy, medication, or a combination of both. You may benefit from: 
  • Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR): An extraordinary form of psychotherapy reduces negative feelings affiliated with traumatic events.
  • Cognitive Processing Therapy (CPT): One of the most effective treatments for PTSD, CPT focuses on evaluating and changing negative thinking patterns.
  • Prolonged Exposure Therapy (PE-T): With a qualified professional, this intervention helps individuals confront fears associated with the trauma. 
Alternative treatments like TMS and Ketamine Therapy may be beneficial if standard interventions have not been successful. Both treatments have been proven to reduce symptoms of depression and anxiety. Working with a mental health professional can help you understand the impact of trauma and the symptoms you are experiencing.
 
Adopting a Healthy Lifestyle. A mind/body approach is often used to ease distressing symptoms of PTSD, as the body’s nervous system is dysregulated after experiencing a traumatic event. Mindfulness meditation, yoga, somatic therapy, and other relaxation techniques have been incorporated into treating PTSD, as these interventions activate the bodys natural relaxation response.
 
Additionally, eating a healthy diet and taking care of your physical health are essential. According to research, Omega-3s have been found to play a crucial role in the emotional health of the mind and body. Omega 3s work in your body to: 
  • Support your central nervous system
  • Promote cardiovascular health
  • Maintain blood lipids and healthy cholesterol levels
  • Improve brain health and cognitive functioning 
Although working with a mental health professional can't be replaced and is essential for overcoming PTSD, using an Omega-3 supplement or incorporating foods like flax seeds, walnuts, and fatty fish like salmon into your diet is a good option for natural, holistic healing.
 
Healing Your Adrenal Glands. Your adrenal glands generate your stress response or your fight/flight response. And the more your adrenal glands are stimulated, thus releasing stress hormones more frequently, the more difficult it is for the brain to function correctly.
 
Restoring a healthier balance of these hormones can help you feel more relaxed throughout the day and help you sleep better at night. Any supplement that promotes immune functioning and regulates stress levels in the body can assist with this.
 
Resources
https://www.psychiatry.org/psychiatrists/practice/dsm
https://www.ptsd.va.gov/understand/awareness/index.asp
https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/therapy-types/prolonged-exposure-therapy
https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/therapy-types/eye-movement-desensitization-and-reprocessing-therapy
https://www.psychiatry.org/patients-families/ptsd/what-is-ptsd#:~:text=PTSD%20can%20occur%20in%20all,as%20men%20to%20have%20PTSD.
https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/omega-3-fish-oil-for-brain-health

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