The phrase Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder tends to conjure images of warzones and veterans being unable to escape their experiences. However, veterans aren’t the only people who experience PTSD. According to the Department of Veterans Affairs, 6% of Americans will develop PTSD at some point in their lives, and 5% will experience it in any given year. Unfortunately, people often wait years to seek PTSD inpatient treatment, if they seek treatment at all. Having a framework for when to seek treatment is vital and can help people lead happy and fulfilling lives.
The hallmark symptom of PTSD is the presence of recurring, unwanted memories and thoughts. These can come in many different forms, including nightmares and flashbacks. The diagnostic criteria for PTSD state that one type of intrusive thought symptom must be present. It’s a common misconception that intrusive thoughts always come in the form of vivid memories and are exact replays of the triggering event. The truth is that our memory is disrupted during traumatic events, and we don’t remember things in order or even in their entirety. Those with PTSD often remember a few details vividly but can’t recall much else.
Intrusive thoughts are horrifying, and those with PTSD often try to avoid them. Avoidance isn’t an abnormal behavior on its own. Most people do try to avoid things that cause them discomfort.
The difference is PTSD is far more extreme, and those with PTSD are easily triggered. People who have PTSD often avoid many things that were once key parts of their lives. A person must show at least one avoidance symptom to be diagnosed with PTSD.
While it works at the moment, avoidance is counter-productive. The more a person avoids their triggers, the longer they put off confronting them. Avoidance can make the symptoms stronger and make recovery more complex.
Changes in Mood
Dealing with trauma is difficult. Coping with trauma you can’t get rid of is exhausting and takes a toll on your emotions. Many people feel hopeless or blame themselves for the traumatic event. Others will feel anxious or unmotivated. Symptoms often mirror depression. People with PTSD can become defensive and withdrawn and make excuses to avoid people and events.
Decline in Mental Acuity
Disrupted memory from the event and heightened anxiety can result in poor memory, as well as issues with listening or focusing. PTSD also affects problem-solving and decision-making.
All of this occurs because PTSD is a neurological disorder rather than a mental illness, and a neurological disorder causes physical changes to the brain.
The amygdala, the part of the brain linked to survival instinct, becomes much more active, triggering intense fear in response to any triggers. Meanwhile, the prefrontal cortex, which is responsible for calming us down, begins to slow down in its function, hampering rational thought. Our hippocampus, responsible for memory, fixates on the event to the detriment of other memories. For a diagnosis, two or more symptoms related to mood or cognition must occur.
Increased Physical Reactions
The human body has multiple defense systems; the two most well-known being fight and flight. The third defense system is to freeze. PTSD makes people feel threatened regularly, so people often deploy their defense systems. Startled reactions followed by aggression and violence can occur, which leads to avoidance because the person feels ashamed of lashing out or fears hurting someone, which causes them to distance themselves further.
PTSD Treatment Options
You have many PTSD treatment options, and each individual’s situation determines the best treatment. Sometimes, a patient needs multiple treatments to recover fully.
We’ve mentioned PTSD often leads to depression, and treating that depression is as important as treating any other symptom. These medications come in the form of Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors (SSRIs) and Serotonin-Norepinephrine Reuptake Inhibitor (SNRIs); you’ve probably heard of the most common ones, like Prozac or Zoloft.
SSRIs work by increasing the amount of serotonin active in your body. SNRIs increases both serotonin and norepinephrine, hormones linked to joy.
Unfortunately, those with PTSD often turn to alcohol or drugs to self-medicate. PTSD, like many mental health issues, often occurs in conjunction with other mental health issues, in a common phenomenon called co-morbidity. Regardless of what form an addiction takes, treating addiction is vital. You need to consider every option, from detox to residential treatment.
Exposure therapy is a kind of therapy designed for those with PTSD or debilitating phobia. It focuses on the event or object the person is avoiding and forces them to confront it. Exposure therapy is distressing to many, but it’s been shown to effectively treat various conditions, including PTSD.
PTSD Inpatient Treatment
PTSD inpatient treatment, also known as residential treatment, is a type of treatment that takes place in a facility that focuses on treating mental health issues. Inpatient programs require the patient to live within the facility, which gives them easy access to treatment and keeps them away from things that might interfere with treatment or cause setbacks.
Find Help for PTSD
Millions of people in the U.S. have PTSD. It’s vital to recognize the symptoms of PTSD and learn about PTSD treatment options to help yourself or a loved one. A proper diagnosis and treatment are crucial and can be life-changing. If you’re considering entering treatment, please read about our admissions process and get started today.