Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) is one common form of mental illness. More than a quarter of a million Australians will experience PTSD at least once in their lifetime.
The condition is a type of anxiety disorder in which sufferers develop unusual responses to help them cope in the aftermath of a traumatic event. Some fail to cope and become excessively sensitive to normal life experiences.
Sufferers may experience various levels of anxiety, which can be triggered by everyday events. Understanding the condition, recognising the triggers and acting to cope with anxiety can help manage and reduce the impact of PTSD.
If you or someone you know suffers from PTSD, help is available. Everyone reacts differently and psychological and medical treatments may be required. However, counselling and a range of strategies are available to help you cope day-to-day.
Certain actions can help reduce distressing symptoms. These actions can result in changes that last into the future. Here are five positive methods to help cope with PTSD.
1. Learn About Trauma and PTSD
One of the most important strategies in working through PTSD is to understand it. The most common cause of PTSD is serious car accidents, but a person can experience the effects after any event that poses a direct threat to themselves or loved ones. It’s helpful to know typical symptoms and understand triggers so you can feel more in control.
Symptoms may include the following:
- Feeling emotionally numb: Feeling cut off or detached from friends and family is an example. The person affected can lose interest in day-to-day activities and feel emotionally flat or numb.
- Reliving the traumatic event: It’s common for the person to relive the event that set off the PTSD through recurring memories. These unwanted memories can occur in the form of nightmares and vivid images which can create intense emotional and physical reaction. Sweating, panic attacks, and heart palpitations are all common side effects.
- Strong attempts to avoid event: Situations that remind the person of the event are usually avoided to prevent repercussions. Activities, places, people, thoughts and feelings can trigger painful memories of the event.
- Feeling overly alert or worked up: Sleeping difficulties, lack of concentration and irritability are all common side effects of PTSD. Sufferers can also become easily startled and be on high alert for any potential danger.
- Intense feelings: Other intense feelings associated with PTSD include fear and helplessness. Stress and lack of sleep are also common.
- Other mental health problems: PTSD can easily lead to other issues like anxiety, depression, drug and alcohol use. It’s vital to look for the early warning signs and gain support and treatment as soon as possible.
2. Communicate with Others for Support
Talking with friends, family and other sufferers can be helpful in gaining support. People with PTSD will experience feelings of disconnection and detachment from others, which can make it hard to open up about the experience. Multiple studies show that the more social support you have with PTSD, the less likely trauma will develop. Therefore, despite how difficult it may feel at first, PTSD sufferers are encouraged to establish supportive relationships with trusted people.
Consider joining a support group. Listening to other peoples’ experiences with PTSD can help validate your own feelings and provide comfort. These groups also provide the perfect opportunity to see firsthand how those in similar situations have overcome symptoms.
3. Practice Relaxation Methods
Grounding yourself through relaxation is a good way to relieve the physical and emotional effects associated with PTSD. Good relaxation starts by looking after yourself. Pay attention to the foods you’re eating and how much exercise and sleep you’re getting.
There are various ways you can relax, but finding what works for you is essential. Simple breathing exercises, muscle relaxation exercises and spending time outdoors with nature can all make a big difference. Meditation, swimming, walking, stretching, yoga, prayer and listening to quiet, soothing music are good examples of relaxation methods.
4. Distract Yourself with Positive Activities
Positive activities don’t just provide a much-needed distraction, but they’re also important for getting back into the swing of things again. As with relaxation, it’s important to find activities that work best for you as everyone will respond differently. Hobbies such as writing, art, music and other creative pursuits can help you to express your feelings in a healthy way.
Participating in physical activities can also be helpful and assist with overcoming sleep difficulties. Find a trusted friend or family member to take up a new sport or workout in the comfort of your home. Exercise will help boost your health, which leads to a clearer and more positive state-of-mind.
5. Speak with a Counsellor about Trauma and PTSD
Know when to ask for help. The coping strategies mentioned above provide relief from the symptoms of PTSD but it’s best to talk to a professional. Find out more about PTSD, treatments and book an appointment to find out how we can help you.
Having an ongoing response to trauma is normal. Anyone can develop PTSD and daily management is a vital part of the recovery process. Positive changes happen little by little. Using positive coping strategies and getting professional support can make a big difference in helping overcome the condition.