Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is most often associated with members of the military and veterans who have experienced combat situations. But as mental health experts emphasized during PTSD Awareness Month (June), many different types of traumatic events can lead to this condition.
Let’s learn a bit about PTSD and its causes, symptoms, and natural treatments for the lasting effects of trauma on a person’s mental health.
Common Causes of PTSD
The most common times that people develop PTSD is after an event involving death, serious injury, or sexual harm. Some people experience PTSD after certain events, while others do not, and doctors aren’t exactly sure why. Theories include inherited personality features and mental health risks, as well as how the brain regulates hormones and chemicals as a stress response.
But in general, the causes of PTSD can be linked to stressful experiences and severe trauma in life. Kinds of traumatic events that can lead to PTSD symptoms include exposure to combat, sexual violence, physical assault, receiving threats, being in an accident, and childhood physical abuse.
Symptoms of PTSD
Every person experiences PTSD in a unique way and at a different time following a traumatic event. PTSD symptoms may appear shortly after an event occurs or many years later.
Common symptoms include reliving the event in flashbacks, having nightmares about the event, suffering from extreme emotional distress, and having physical reactions in response to the stress. It is possible for the symptoms to worsen over time or be triggered by sights or sounds that remind a person of past trauma. People who have had very intense trauma, long exposure to trauma, other mental health programs, substance use issues, or lack of support from friends or family are more prone to severe PTSD symptoms.
Natural PTSD Treatments
If a person suffers from PTSD symptoms for longer than a month, it is generally recommended to see a doctor or mental health professional. If suicidal thoughts arise, emergency help should be sought immediately through a 911 call, suicide hotline, medical professional, spiritual leader, or loved one.
Psychotherapy is a common treatment for PTSD, often combined with medications prescribed by a mental health professional. Exposure therapy can help people learn to manage their fears by bringing them up in a safe way, while cognitive restructuring is useful for helping people make sense of a traumatic event and come to terms with how it really happened. Psychiatrists may prescribe antidepressant medications, such as selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) for PTSD or sleep medications if nightmares persist.
You can take a natural approach to PTSD treatment by developing a personal meditation practice that helps you focus on your emotions and breathing to get control of stressful PTSD symptoms. Regular exercise, a balanced diet with fruits and vegetables, and rejecting alcohol and drugs as coping mechanisms can help as well. Consider joining a PTSD support group or talking with a therapist trained in PTSD recovery. Help is available for people suffering from PTSD beyond just taking pills and numbing emotions.
Here are some resources if you or someone you know is struggling with this condition:
- Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration National Helpline: (800) 662-HELP (4357)
- National Alliance on Mental Health Helpline: call 800-950-6264 or text NAMI to 741741
- PTSD Foundation of America, Veteran Line: (877) 717-PTSD (7873)