A little over a year ago, Baton Rouge and surrounding areas experienced flooding of historic proportions. In a matter of days, 6.9 trillion gallons of water fell throughout the state with devastating consequences. Many lost their homes, cars, possessions, and priceless keepsakes and then had to pick up and begin the arduous process of rebuilding it all. It was undoubtedly a trying time but one that Louisiana got through with grace. Then, a year later, our neighbors in Texas faced similar circumstances as Hurricane Harvey pummeled the Houston metro area, and for many, the heartbreak for these new flood victims was matched only by their own physical and emotional reactions to such traumatic memories.
Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is a recognized mental health disorder that impacts those who have experienced or witnessed a traumatic or life-threatening event. Common examples of these events include combat, assault, accident, or natural disaster. And, while upsetting memories, feelings of anxiousness, and insomnia are all perfectly normal in the following days, they should fade away over time. When they do not, however, or when similar events re-traumatize victims, PTSD can occur.
Signs and Symptoms of PTSD
PTSD impacts each individual differently. Some begin to experience PTSD symptoms relatively quickly, while others may not notice signs until years later. Likewise, the symptoms experienced can vary from one person to the next. Here are some of which to be aware:
- Intrusive memories – Unwanted, recurrent and distressing memories of the event that occur without warning, during dreams, or in response to triggers that serve as reminders of the event.
- Avoidance – Avoiding places, people, or activities that serve as reminders of the event.
- Changes in Mood or Thought – Negative thoughts and emotions about oneself, the world, or the future. Feeling detached from others, being uninterested in previously enjoyable activities, and finding difficulty in experiencing positive emotions.
- Physical and Emotional Changes – Difficulty sleeping, concentrating, or relaxing. Being easily startled, experiencing aggressive behavior or angry outbursts, or displaying reckless and self-destructive behavior.
How to Cope with PTSD
The first step in coping with PTSD is to acknowledge the problem and seek medical care. A professional such as a psychiatrist can examine your symptoms and offer a definitive diagnosis and treatment options. Along with PTSD come some pretty common mental health concerns such as anxiety or depression. By addressing these related conditions, patients can achieve vast improvement.
Prescription medications are FDA approved for the treatment of PTSD as well as depression and anxiety and offer great results in many cases. Additionally, other prescription anti-anxiety medications intended to help patients overcome restlessness and insomnia related to their condition may be used. And, although finding the best combination of medications will be a top priority, incorporating other treatment options such as psychotherapy may also be recommended.
If you are experiencing symptoms of PTSD following a natural disaster or other traumatic event, understand that your response is normal. As much as eight percent of the population is believed to be affected by PTSD at any given time. What is most important, is to acknowledge the existence of the problem and to seek help as quickly as possible. Contact Psychiatry Associates of Baton Rouge, and request an appointment. It’s just the first step on the road to PTSD recovery.