We have many people who come to the HealthyPlace website looking for information on PTSD, Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder. Most fall into two categories: war veterans and sexual abuse or rape victims.
PTSD is an extremely challenging condition and people with post-traumatic stress disorder face the added stress of nightmares, insomnia, flashbacks, rage, intrusive thoughts and more on a regular basis. This week, on the HealthyPlace Mental Health TV Show, we’ll explore the causes and impact of PTSD and how you can deal with trauma in your life with Drs. Rosemary Lichtman and Phyllis Goldberg. You can read more about them at the bottom of this post.
From Drs. Lichtman and Goldberg:
Stress and anxiety have become almost epidemic in our society today. These are a reaction by the body to an enormous demand placed on it. A national health survey found that 75% of the general population experiences at least some stress every couple of weeks.
Our fears about terrorism and financial collapse are mixed with our reactions to the devastating effects of natural disasters – earthquakes, flooding, hurricanes, tsunamis, and volcanic eruptions. The result of these real catastrophes is magnified by the 24/7 coverage by television and Internet news services, leaving us feeling anxious, stressed and emotionally exhausted. As uncomfortable as this is, what you are experiencing is a normal response to an abnormal situation.
Post Traumatic Stress Disorder can affect those who have experienced sexual or physical abuse or have been the victim of or involved in a traumatic event. There is a wide range of reactions and symptoms of stress, anxiety and PTSD. Have you noticed any of these symptoms of PTSD?
Physical reactions such as: sleep disturbances, changes in appetite, headaches, exaggerated startle response, body tension – being just plain jittery with a pounding heart and a knot in your stomach;
Emotional responses such as: anxiety, fear, frustration, anger, feelings of vulnerability – the recognition of being unable to control the situation;
Cognitive changes such as: confusion, forgetfulness, difficulty concentrating, hyper-vigilance – finding you really can’t think as clearly as before;
Behavioral reactions such as: isolation, irritability, restlessness, impatience, aggressive behavior – avoiding or pushing away friends and family.
If you are feeling overwhelmed, with recurrent and intrusive recollections or dreams and external cues that set off the deep feelings from the traumatic event, you may be suffering from PTSD. If so, a therapist can help you work through your feelings and gain a sense of control over the trauma you have experienced.
To reduce your stress and anxiety, here are some strategies that may help:
Talk about your thoughts and feelings with family and friends and reach out to others in your support system. Be open to asking for help and validation of your emotions. You may want to consult a professional counselor for a non-judgmental ear and help in sorting out your concerns. Start a journal to aid in the process of coping with your anxiety.
Maintain balance in your life between personal needs, work and your family obligations. Don’t over commit yourself even as you retain a normal routine. If you are a Sandwiched Boomer, plan to carve out some special time for yourself in the midst of caring for your growing children and aging parents. Remember to be open to the healing effects of laughter.
Exercise moderately several times a week. Find an activity that you enjoy and will stick with – walking with friends, keeping fit through dance or yoga classes, training at the gym. Get enough rest and sleep to allow your body to recover from the stresses of the day.
Eat sensibly, following a balanced diet of healthy foods rich in nutrition that serve as a natural defense against stress. Avoid the use of drugs and alcohol to self-medicate and limit your use of sugar, caffeine and cigarettes as they can contribute to your agitation.
Use relaxation techniques. Set aside time for a regular routine of deep breathing, guided imagery, meditation, or other stress reduction methods to alleviate your feelings of anxiety. Decide to put off worrying – much of what you may fear never actually happens anyway.
Focus on what you can control in your life and what you can accomplish, not what you can’t. Let go of negative thoughts and unrealistic expectations. While you often can’t influence circumstances, you can control how you handle them. Clearly define your goals and keep focused on them. Make something positive come out of a negative situation, for instance, by providing aid to those in need after devastating events.
Draw on your strengths. Use those you have relied on in the past as well as those you have developed more recently. Brainstorm new ways to apply the abilities you have in a novel way as you create new opportunities for yourself.
Be patient with yourself. Know that you will recover balance and serenity at your own pace. As long as you keep moving forward, you will eventually reach your destination.
Share Your Experiences with PTSD
Whether you’re a PTSD patient or a loved one of someone with PTSD, we invite you to call us at 1-888-883-8045 and share your experiences and insights on what it’s like living with PTSD and if you’ve found anything helpful for treating the symptoms of PTSD. (Info on Sharing Your Mental Health Experiences here.) You can also leave comments below.
You can watch our interview with Drs. Lichtman and Goldberg on the HealthyPlace Mental Health TV Show homepage by clicking the on-demand button on the player. The show is titled “PTSD: Dealing with Trauma in Your Life.”
About Drs. Lichtman and Goldberg
We’re Drs. Rosemary Lichtman and Phyllis Goldberg, both family relationship experts. Rosemary is a Psychologist and Phyllis a Marriage and Family Therapist. We’ve been in practice for over 20 years and have been working together for the past ten years at HerMentorCenter.com, coaching women through family transitions. We’ve developed a practical 4-step model for change, full of strategic tips to improve family relationships. Whether you’re coping with stress, acting out teenagers, aging parents, boomerang kids or difficult daughters-in-law, we have solutions for you. Log on to our blog, and learn how to better care for yourself in these trying times. At either our website or blog, you can sign up for our free newsletter, Stepping Stones, and complimentary e-book, Courage and Lessons Learned.