Healing From Posttraumatic Stress Disorder
People who have gone through or seen a
traumatic event can
have severe stress linked to the incident. Traumatic events can include
witnessing or being
involved in a car accident, military
terrorist attack, rape, or some other act of violence. Many people get better on their
But it often takes time. Sometimes professional help is needed.
People who feel they can't get control
of their lives because of their responses to the trauma may have posttraumatic stress
disorder (PTSD). The symptoms vary. For some people, symptoms appear right after the
For others, they may happen days, weeks, or even months later. PTSD has been linked
other mental illnesses. It can happen with depression. Or it can lead to depression.
with PTSD may not be aware that they are affected by it.
People with a few of these symptoms
may have PTSD and should seek professional help:
Keep thinking or having
nightmares about the event (flashbacks, accompanied by painful emotions)
Trouble sleeping because of
Anxiety and fear, especially
when exposed to situations like the traumatic event
Being on edge, being easily
startled or overly alert
Feeling depressed or sad and
having low energy
Feeling "scattered" and unable
to focus on work or daily activities
Having trouble making
Feeling grouchy, easily
Feeling emotionally numb,
withdrawn, or disconnected from others, and avoiding close emotional ties with
family, friends, and coworkers
Suddenly crying, feeling a sense
of despair and hopelessness
Feeling that danger is always
Being very protective of, or
fearful for, the safety of loved ones
- Experiencing an "anniversary reaction" on the day of the event. Reactions can range
upset to experiencing extreme emotional or medical symptoms.
Steps toward healing
How someone reacts to trauma
depends on a number of things. These include the person’s age, personality, and any
exposure to trauma in the
past. Any person,
of any age, can develop PTSD after a traumatizing event.
The following actions can help you recover from PTSD:
Get professional help right
The longer a person with PTSD goes without treatment, the harder it
can be to heal. The best place to start is to see a psychiatrist or other mental
can confirm the diagnosis and evaluate your need for medicine.
Employee-assistance programs, police departments, healthcare providers, and crisis
hotlines can recommend counselors (therapists) in your area. A therapist may teach
relaxation methods and help you understand and change the mental processes that
lead to PTSD.
can also provide a safe place for you and your family to talk about and learn to
cope with your PTSD. The provider can also help you find a healthcare provider if
you haven’t yet seen one.
Be patient with yourself.
Realize this will be a hard time in your life. Allow yourself to mourn the losses
Talk about it. People who
have gone through tragedy need to work through their pain. Often this means
telling the same story over and over for days, weeks, or even months. But
depending on the event that triggered your PTSD, it may be best to talk with a
therapist about issues related to the event itself. Counselors are more likely
than friends or family to understand trauma and its
They are also the best prepared to help you identify triggers and effective
Spend time with others. Attend a place of worship, book club, exercise class, or other gatherings as often
as you can.
Eat a healthy diet, exercise, and try to get enough sleep. When you're stressed, you're more open to illness. Eating a well-balanced diet and
getting enough sleep can help you stay well. Regular exercise can relieve depression
Try relaxation methods. These
can include full-body relaxation or breathing exercises, meditation, stretching,
yoga, listening to quiet music, and spending time in nature settings.
Join a support group. Being
in a group with other people who have PTSD may help reduce isolation. It can also
help rebuild your trust in others.
Stay away from negative coping
These include using drugs or alcohol, workaholism, violent
behavior, and angry intimidation of others. These may seem to help by giving quick
relief. But they worsen the illness and make recovery more difficult.
Get involved. Volunteer to
a charitable organization of your choice. Helping others can
give you a sense of purpose.