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Treating PTSD.

Nearly half of all Americans experience a traumatic event in their lifetime.

Feeling anxious, having unpleasant memories and difficulty sleeping are common responses after experiencing trauma. These feelings may persist for a few weeks up to a few months until an individual feels better and can resume life in a healthy manner.

However, in some cases, people are unable to recover without help. By this time, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) may have developed.

PTSD is a mental condition caused by witnessing or experiencing a terrifying event. Experiences that can lead to PTSD include, but aren't limited to, combat, near drowning, loss of a loved one, victim of a violent crime or sexual assault.

Roughly 7% to 8% of Americans will have experienced PTSD in their lives. PTSD is higher in persons with a spinal-cord injury (SCI).

The number of veterans with PTSD varies by the time they served. Approximately 30% of Vietnam-era veterans have experienced PTSD at some point in their lives. In any year, 12% of Gulf War (Desert Storm) veterans have PTSD. Approximately 11% to 20% of those who served during Operations Iraqi Freedom or Enduring Freedom have PTSD in any given year.

Seek Help

There's strong evidence that reveals stress from combat and PTSD are linked.

During combat, individuals undergo additional stress factors, such as being away from family and loved ones, witnessing death and fearing loss of life. These feelings may not go away after returning home from war.

Some veterans struggling with PTSD believe they can resume their pre-war lifestyle with little to no difficulty. As time passes, military trauma will continue to stay with them.

It's essential for a veteran to seek assistance from a physician if his or her symptoms cause a disruption in his or her life. A physician will perform a medical examination to rule out a physical condition behind the cause.

Next, the physician will perform a mental health assessment. For an individual to receive a diagnosis of PTSD, he or she must develop four symptoms from the different symptom groups for at least one month.

PTSD symptoms can come and go, persist regularly and worsen over the years if untreated. For some individuals, this condition may develop months to even years later after exposure.

PTSD symptoms are often grouped into four areas.

* Intrusive thoughts: Nightmares, reliving the trauma and emotional distress

* Avoidance: Avoiding conversations, thoughts, activities or places that remind you of the trauma

* Negative thoughts: Thinking negatively about yourself or others, difficulty experiencing happiness, a loss of interest in pursuing activities you used to enjoy or feeling hopelessness about life

* Physical and emotional responses: Feeling startled or on edge, irritability, outbursts of anger, easily frightened, overwhelming feelings of guilt, self-destructive behavior such as overeating and frequent use of alcohol

Types Of Therapy

If you're diagnosed with PTSD, you may be referred to a therapist. Find a therapist who has experience in PTSD.

There are various treatment modalities available for PTSD. Research shows that psychotherapy, also called talk therapy, is effective in managing PTSD. Therapy will allow one to learn how to cope with the trauma, reformulate thoughts on the event and change negative feelings about the world.

Another non-pharmaceutical treatment is Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR). This treatment has rapidly grown in popularity.

Individuals using EMDR therapy are tasked with recalling thoughts and feelings of the trauma while moving their eyes as directed by an EMDR specialist. Revisiting thoughts and feelings around the trauma while diverting attention with eye movement facilitated by a trained specialist helps dissociate those thoughts and feelings from the trauma. Many people report that EMDR therapy is efficacious and has no negative side effects.

Prescribed pharmaceutical treatments have proven effective in managing PTSD. Antidepressants and anti-anxiety medications may help decrease the intensity of sadness and feelings of anxiousness, as well as improve concentration and sleep. Antianxiety medications can help take the edge off to help you feel more at ease.

Medication management may not be of interest or benefit for some. There are additional treatment options available that have proven success.

Other Alternatives

Little research has been conducted on the effectiveness of alternative medicine in treating PTSD, however, veterans are increasingly using alternative medicine as an adjunctive therapy in treating PTSD.

Yoga, massage, mindfulness and meditation, diet-based therapy and acupuncture are common alternative therapies sought in managing PTSD.

These modalities help decrease stress and anxiety, while improving your overall emotional state. Various treatment options for PTSD should be thoughtfully considered.

If you believe you're experiencing PTSD and want to get your life back on track, contact your physician to see what options may work best for you.

If you're experiencing thoughts of suicide, seek immediate treatment by contacting a close friend or relative or by calling the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 800-273-8255 and press 1 for the Veterans Crisis Line. This hotline operates 24/7.

Amanda Milisits, BSN, RN, is the director of Paralyzed Veterans of America's Medical Services in Washington, D.C.
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Title Annotation:health smarts
Author:Milisits, Amanda
Publication:PN - Paraplegia News
Date:May 1, 2019
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