Empowering Change

PTSD Symptoms, Diagnosis, and Recovery: How Experiential and Communal Therapies Help

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Many people are unaware that PTSD, (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder), is an issue that many people face. While the classic stereotype implies PTSD is something that combat soldiers are challenged with, this diagnosis is much more far-reaching than people traditionally think.

In simplest terms, having PTSD means you’ve experienced an event or series of events that were traumatic enough to change how you think, behave, react to everyday scenarios, and most importantly, how you navigate through the day-to-day experiences. Anyone who has been sexually assaulted, the victim of ongoing physical abuse, kidnapped, lived a traumatic lifestyle due to absentee/neglectful parents, foster care, or anyone who has witnessed a single traumatic event, like watching the Twin Towers fall, could have PTSD. The diagnosis is almost entirely associated with veterans; while it is clearly important to treat veterans who return home with mental health care, we mustn’t overlook others with PTSD who have never seen a battlefield.

Does My Loved One Have PTSD? Do I Have PTSD? Symptoms You Should Be Aware Of

Those with PTSD aren’t always aware they have it because of the social constructs and myths about this diagnosis being one of combat. Do you have PTSD? Could your spouse or child be struggling with posttraumatic stress? Yes, absolutely. In fact, you may have experienced something in early childhood you don’t remember, such as molestation, that makes you a likely candidate for PTSD diagnosis. The brain has a way of blocking out events — memories of these events can cycle back up in adulthood, and as victims begin to wonder if these events actually occurred, they may begin to question their judgment, or even their sanity. You or your loved one may have PTSD if you or they experience:

  • Inability to trust
  • Feelings of betrayal without understanding why you feel betrayed
  • Thoughts of suicide
  • Insomnia caused by a fear to fall asleep, where you experience nightmares
  • Blaming yourself for something going wrong when logically, it can’t be your fault
  • Remembering traumatic event(s) like a broken record that repeats constantly
  • Unexplained physical aches/pains your doctor cannot find reasons for
  • Persistent muscle tension
  • Snapping at children, spouse, or other loved ones without provocation
  • Substance abuse of any kind
  • Eating disorders, including anorexia, binge-eating, and bulimia

How to Recover from PTSD: There is Hope

The first step is to get a PTSD diagnosis, and this can be hard for many without the knowledge of whom or where to look for help with a problem they don’t even know has a name. Aside from the tragedy of suicide, the primary concern for those with PTSD is substance abuse. Those with this diagnosis need the help of a trained rehabilitation doctor who can address what is called dual diagnosis: substance abuse, and underlying event(s) that drove him or her to self-medicate with alcohol, painkillers, benzodiazepines, heroin, cocaine, methamphetamine, or other drugs.

Healing with Experiential and Communal Therapy Modalities

Adults with PTSD benefit tremendously from experiential therapies, and by communicating with others with PTSD in group therapy. In addition, PTSD sufferers blossom into self-loving people when they engage in art and music therapy, meditation and yoga in communal settings, and in equine therapy, where they work with a therapist and learn to care for themselves through recognizing their ability to love another animal. Through simple exercise, staying active, and getting “back out there,” those with PTSD can overcome fears and begin to see a path to recovery they finally realize they deserve.

Learning to Live the Life You Deserve: Coping Methods for Stress and Social Settings

Posttraumatic stress is a serious diagnosis all too often unnoticed in hundreds of thousands of people. In recovery, those with PTSD can learn how to engage socially again in a healthy way. They are given tools to cope with social situations and stress that allow them to overcome their fears as they overcome addiction. Finally, PTSD sufferers rediscover a world without physical pain, where sights, sounds, or smells that once triggered panic or flashbacks are barriers they can overcome through a knowledge base they obtain during treatment and one-on-one sessions with doctors who specialize in dual diagnosis and PTSD.

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