Stress Can Be a Lifesaver Did you know that feeling nervous, worried, and fearful are all normal and even healthy emotions that help us deal with the stressful situations...Read More
Posted: September 13th, 2022
Have you ever experienced any of these scary situations? You slam on the breaks when the car in front of you suddenly stops. You involuntarily punch your buddy in the face when he jumps out to scare you. Your mouth goes dry, face gets red, and mind goes blank when you stand to give a speech. You quickly lunge forward to catch a falling child. You hold your breath and stop dead in your tracks when you see a grizzly bear near your campsite. When the bear starts chasing you, you run away as fast as you can. These are all examples of the fight, flight, or freeze response system we are all born with to keep us safe from perceived danger. When activated, we react in one of three ways:1
We usually react without even thinking about what we’re doing until the moment has passed. We respond instinctively to the threat to preserve our safety and survival. When the danger is gone, the fight-flight-freeze response system is deactivated, and life gradually goes back to normal. Maybe after some choice expletives aimed at the driver in front of you, traffic starts to move again, and you drive on. You apologize to the friend you just punched and have a good laugh. You tell tall tales around the campfire about the bear that almost ate you and sleep with your flashlight under your pillow. But for those of us whose experiences didn’t end so safely, moving on might not be easy.
Some of us have trouble getting past the scary situations we’ve witnessed or experienced, especially if it involved prolonged terror, horror, or life-threatening fear. We relive the moment in an effort to solve it, which activates the fight-flight-freeze response again, even when the original experience is over. Some may start to associate similar places or situations with the past traumatic experience. For example, if you lived through a supermarket robbery where a gun was held to your head, your fight-flight-freeze response may be triggered every time you go shopping for groceries. Others have memories, flashbacks, or dreams that force them to repeatedly relive the traumatic experience. A prolonged or ongoing fight-flight-freeze response may require your body to constantly activate the system, creating chronic stress and anxiety.
Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is a mental health disorder that may occur in people who have experienced, witnessed, or been exposed to a traumatic event(s), such as an accident, death, crime, combat, natural disaster, or abuse. Otherwise known as “shell shock” or “combat fatigue” after World War I and II, PTSD is marked by intense, disturbing thoughts and feelings related to traumatic experiences in the past.3 Thankfully, only 8% of women and 4% of men who experience trauma develop PTSD. This is a small portion of the 60% of men and 50% of women who have experienced trauma at least once in their lives. As of 2021, PTSD affects about 6% of the total U.S. population or 15 million people.4
PTSD symptoms usually begin within three months of the traumatic event; however, they may not appear until several months or even years later. To be diagnosed with PTSD, a varying degree of the symptoms below persist for at least one month and are severe enough to interfere with relationships or work.3, 5, 6, 7
Fear, anxiety, anger, depression, guilt — all are common reactions to trauma. However, the majority of people exposed to trauma do not develop long-term post-traumatic stress disorder.7 Many people recover naturally with time. Other less severe disorders may develop after experiencing a traumatic event(s) that closely resemble PTSD symptoms but do not last as long. Acute Stress Disorder (ASD) symptoms occur between three and thirty days after the event(s) and Adjustment Disorder (AD) symptoms last between three to six months after the traumatic event.3 If you think you may have PTSD, take this preliminary QUIZ,8 which includes some of the questions a professional would ask to make a correct diagnosis. Share your answers with a mental health professional who can discuss a diagnosis and treatment with you based on your unique situation.
Getting timely help and support may prevent normal stress reactions from getting worse and developing into PTSD. This may mean facing past events that scare you, practicing new coping techniques, or seeking out a mental health professional for a brief course of therapy. Whatever your situation, PTSD can be healed. It starts by facing the past to live in the now. Below are some effective strategies proven to help overcome PTSD.
If you have disturbing thoughts and feelings about a traumatic event for more than a month, if they’re severe, or if you feel you’re having trouble getting your life back under control, talk to your doctor or a mental health professional. If you or someone you know has suicidal thoughts, call the suicide hotline at 1-800-273-TALK (1-800-273-8255) to reach a trained counselor. If you think you may hurt yourself or attempt suicide, call 911 immediately.
Mind Spa recommends our mental health treatment for individuals with PTSD. Our licensed therapists and medical professionals are dedicated to providing patients with safe and effective mental health treatment that teaches them how to properly heal their symptoms. Contact Mind Spa today for personalized treatment options.
1 Lennon, A., Gepp, K. (2021, June 22). Fight, flight, or freeze: What Is the stress response for? https://psychcentral.com/blog/fight-flight-freeze-stress-response#what-is-it
2 U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs National Center for PTSD. (n.d.). What is PTSD? https://www.media.eo.va.gov/ptsd/mp4/what_is_ptsd.mp4
3 American Psychiatric Association. (2020, August). What is posttraumatic stress disorder? https://www.psychiatry.org/patients-families/ptsd/what-is-ptsd
4 U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs National Center for PTSD. (n.d.). How common is PTSD in adults? https://www.ptsd.va.gov/understand/common/common_adults.asp#:~:text=About%2015%20million%20adults%20have,100%20men%20(or%204%25)
5 National Institute of Mental Health. (2019, May). Post-traumatic stress disorder. https://nimh.nih.gov/health/topics/post-traumatic-stress-disorder-ptsd#:~:text=Post-traumatic%20stress%20disorder%20(PTSD,danger%20or%20to%20avoid%20it.
6 National Alliance on Mental Illness. Posttraumatic stress disorder. https://www.nami.org/About-Mental-Illness/Mental-Health-Conditions/Posttraumatic-Stress-Disorder
7 Mayo Clinic. (2018, July 6). Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/post-traumatic-stress-disorder/symptoms-causes/syc-20355967
8 Anxiety & Depression Association of America. (2021, October 19). Screening for posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD). https://adaa.org/screening-posttraumatic-stress-disorder-ptsd
9 U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs National Center for PTSD. (n.d.). Mindfulness practice in the treatment of traumatic stress. https://www.ptsd.va.gov/gethelp/selfhelp_coping.asp
10 Veterans Health Administration (2014, August 19). What is mindfulness? YouTube [Video]. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JbGe9BpniJo
11 U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs National Center for PTSD. (n.d.). Mindfulness coach. https://www.ptsd.va.gov/appvid/mobile/mindfulcoach_app.asp
12 U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs National Center for PTSD. (n.d.). Peer support groups. https://www.ptsd.va.gov/gethelp/peer_support.asp
13 Meetup. PTSD. https://www.meetup.com/topics/ptsd/
14 U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs National Center for PTSD. (2013, August). PTSD coach online. https://www.ptsd.va.gov/apps/ptsdcoachonline/default.htm
15 Anxiety & Depression Association of America. (2021, June). Treatment and facts: post-traumatic stress disorder. https://adaa.org/understanding-anxiety/posttraumatic-stress-disorder-ptsd/treatment-facts
16 U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs National Center for PTSD. Prolonged exposure for PTSD. https://www.ptsd.va.gov/understand_tx/prolonged_exposure.asp
17 U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs National Center for PTSD. Cognitive processing therapy. https://www.media.eo.va.gov/ptsd/mp4/Whiteboard_PE.mp4
18 U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs National Center for PTSD. Cognitive processing therapy for PTSD. https://www.ptsd.va.gov/understand_tx/cognitive_processing.asp
19 U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs National Center for PTSD. Cognitive Processing Therapy for PTSD. [Video]. https://www.media.eo.va.gov/ptsd/mp4/Whiteboard_CPT.mp4
20 U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs National Center for PTSD. Eye movement desensitization and reprocessing. https://www.ptsd.va.gov/understand_tx/emdr.asp
21 U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs National Center for PTSD. EMDR for PTSD. https://www.media.eo.va.gov/PTSD/mp4/VA_Video01_EMDR_VFinal_NoAudioDescribe.mp4
22 U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs National Center for PTSD. Medications for PTSD. https://www.media.eo.va.gov/PTSD/mp4/VA_Video02_Meds_VFinal_NoAudioDescribe.mp4