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Harnessing PTSD Symptoms

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Harnessing PTSD Symptoms


An exposure to a traumatic event or a frightening experience can shatter your wits. Even if you were not directly in the situation, a harrowing episode can shake you up. As time passes, the intense emotions may gradually fade, and you may start to feel better in due time. What if you cannot shake off the negative emotions and the traumatic experience continues to haunt you both in your sleep and wakefulness? Watch out! Post-traumatic stress disorder or PTSD can be the unseen culprit behind the nightmares and flashbacks.


A Closer Look at PTSD

Post traumatic stress disorder is a real condition triggered by a shocking, terrifying or dangerous event. The condition affects as many as 20 percent of American adults who have experienced a traumatic event. The National Center for PTSD suggests that almost 4 percent of men and 10 percent of women have the tendency to develop the disorder at some point in their life. The risk is higher for people exposed to mass violence than those who have experienced other types of upsetting events.

PTSD is a type of anxiety disorder that develops after being directly involved in or being a witness to a shocking event. The condition was once recognized in and associated with soldiers returning from military service, but PTSD can happen to anyone, at any age. It is called by a variety of names, including “Post-Vietnam Syndrome,” “Battle Fatigue,” and the popular reference, “Shell Shock.” These days, the condition is known to affect not only those exposed to military combats or armed conflicts, but to anyone, particularly:


  • victims, survivors or witnesses of a life-threatening situation and event, such as domestic violence, a vehicular accident, natural disaster, physical or verbal abuse, etc.
  • people who experienced the sudden death of a loved one
  • emergency responders during traumatic situations
  • children who were neglected and abused
  • people diagnosed with a life-threatening illness
  • service men, such as police officers, firemen, and search and rescue teams


Experiencing the Symptoms

Stress reactions are expected after experiencing a traumatic event. Eventually, the intense emotions and behavior will change, and you may feel better in time. If, however, the distressing feelings last longer than three months and disrupt your regular functioning, the help of a professional may be warranted.


The National Center for PTSD provides an overview of the four major PTSD symptoms that easily tell it is time to seek help from a licensed therapist:


  • Reliving the traumatic event – Nightmares, unwanted thoughts or flashbacks continue to haunt an individual with a disturbing experience. PTSD is easily triggered by mere sights, sounds, or smells that serve as reminders of the shocking event. Strong feelings of distress are aroused when memories and reminders are present.


  • Avoiding potential triggers – Situations, people, photos, certain movies or television shows, or places that may ring a bell and bring back memories of the experience or event are avoided by those who have been through a frightening experience. Someone with PTSD commonly exerts effort to engage in activities that block the mind from thinking about the event.


  • Changing beliefs and feelings negatively – The trauma has the potential to effect negative changes in the way an individual with PTSD feels and thinks about his/her own self and about others. It is not unusual for someone with PTSD to withdraw and detach from people and important relationships in the belief that the world is a dangerous and untrustworthy place to live in. There may also be loss of interest in important events and activities that were once positive.


  • Experiencing hyperarousal – Feeling keyed up or edgy characterizes an individual who has experienced trauma. Known as hyperarousal, this feeling includes jitteriness, irritability, anger outburst, lack of concentration, and constantly being on guard for danger that may be lurking around every corner.


People with PTSD may also experience feelings of hopelessness, despair and depression.


The symptoms usually manifest within three months of the traumatic incident. There are, however, cases when the signs become evident years afterward. The duration of the disorder varies from person to person, with some recovering within six months, while others struggle with it longer. In some individuals, PTSD becomes chronic.

The symptoms of PTSD can be difficult to alleviate without treatment. If allowed to persist, PTSD has the potential to affect various aspects of your life. The extreme trauma can permanently impair or alter brain chemistry. Without treatment, unhealthy coping strategies may develop, such as substance abuse or self-harming behavior. These risks highlight the importance of seeking help from a professional.


Debunking PTSD Myths

PTSD is one of the misunderstood disorders that many false assumptions and disgracing labels have been attached to it. Despite the influx of research, popular misconceptions still surround the condition, leading to misunderstanding, maltreatment and prejudice.  There is more to learn about PTSD, and a lot of myths to debunk. Here are some of them:


  • PTSD affects military veterans only. One does not have to experience war-related trauma to be affected by PTSD. Anyone can struggle with the symptoms even if he or she has not served in the military.


  • PTSD is a chronic condition that cannot be treated. This myth prevents those with PTSD from seeking help in the belief that the condition cannot be treated effectively. In reality, countless treatments are available for people living with the effects of a traumatic event.


  • A person with PTSD is violent and dangerous. It is true that people with PTSD can be unstable, and irritable, but violence is not one of the symptoms. In fact, the tendency to withdraw, isolate, and avoid other people are more common due to the fear of encountering triggers.


  • PTSD is a condition that you can automatically recover from. PTSD is a recognized diagnosis in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders. It means it is a real condition that people cannot just heal on their own, even if the symptoms take months or years to appear.


Reconsidering and giving these common myths a second thought may help in addressing the issues related to PTSD. A better understanding of PTSD can encourage people to seek help and receive appropriate care from their therapist and other support systems.


Conquering Your Fears

Perhaps one of the most upsetting myths about PTSD is that it is a sign of weakness. People with PTSD are wrongly accused of dwelling on the past rather than “getting over it” or moving on. PTSD is not a choice or a sign of weakness. On the contrary, seeking treatment to unmask and face your fears symbolizes courage.

The symptoms of PTSD can be successfully treated even if they developed many years past the traumatic event. If you recognize the symptoms in you or someone you know, seeking help in the first instance is recommended. The best hope for treating PTSD is to find a good therapist who will work with you in resolving the triggers and help you find effective ways to confront the stress of the past trauma.

With help from the right fit therapist independently contracted with Carolina Counseling Services – North Fayetteville Office – Fayetteville, NC, you or someone you know can once again live a productive and healthy life. Do not allow a traumatic past to bother you any longer. Call CCS – North Fayetteville Office – Fayetteville, NC now to schedule your first appointment.

Serving Areas: Carolina Counseling Services

Counties: Cumberland, Bladen and Sampson Counties, NC
Areas: Fayetteville NC, Ft Bragg NC, Pope Field NC, Silver City NC, Linden NC, Bowmore NC, Autryville NC, Bunnlevel NC, Erwin NC, Dundarrach NC, Pineview NC, Rex NC, Lemon Springs NC, Johnsonville NC, Eastover NC, Stedman NC and Wade, NC
Zip Codes: 28311, 28395, 28390, 28356

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Carolina Counseling Services – North Fayetteville Office, Fayetteville, NC

422 McArthur Road, Suite 2
FayettevilleNC 28311

Our Mailing Address:

PO BOX 9909
Fayetteville, NC 28311

Choose your Therapist

  • Becky Clark, MSW, LCSW

    Specializes in: (Ages 18+) Anxiety, Depression, Individuals, Couples, Geriatrics, Criminal Justice, Stress Management, Loss and Grief related to death, disability, divorce, deployment, “empty nest”, retirement and other major life transitions
    Insurance: BCBS, Tricare, Medicare, and Cash

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    Location: Fayetteville, NC