Coping with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)

Post-traumatic stress disorder or PTSD is a manifestation of symptoms that cause distress to a person who has been exposed to life-threatening traumatic events such as accidents, war, sexual assaults, natural disasters or emergency situations like relief-work. These are triggered when the person experiences sound or visuals that remind him of the trauma.

PTSD might gradually fade away over time, or a person might have to live with it forever. PTSD affects work, relationships, moods and life. People resort to unhealthy ways of coping like substance abuse and escapism, if help is not found in time. There is no cure for PTSD but coping styles help to manage symptoms. Coping is the inner psychological mechanism that enables us to control the adverse effects of symptoms.

1. Professional help
The best way to cope is to find a trained therapist to assist you. They can help you through-

  • Medication -anti depressants like fluoxetine, paroxetine, sertraline.
  • Therapy- Cognitive behaviour therapy and eye movement desensitization and reprocessing are common treatments for PTSD. Suppression, Replacement, minimization, mapping, reversal, wishful thinking, approach and avoidance styles are also used. In a study of women exposed to domestic violence, it was found that “survivor’s safety” was a better therapy than “avoidance”.


2. Learning and self-awareness
Family or friends can help by reading up on PTSD and finding useful information. It helps if the person keeps a check on his symptoms, as to by what or when these are triggered.

3. Social support
It’s the biggest help in almost all of mental health problems. Confide in a friend what you feel, even if you might feel awkward sharing your symptoms. It helps to join a support group too where you might meet people in a situation similar to yours.
Loved ones can help by offering a caring and patient ear when it is most needed.
In case of children, be careful to not avoid discussing their feelings, instead help them to see that they are real and can be coped up with.

4. Be active
it’s important to indulge in leisurely activities. Work and hobbies relieve distress. Make time for walks, exercise and sports. It not only keeps the body fit, but also the mind healthy. Breathing exercises and meditation help to focus on the present moment instead of the past or future.

5. Face them
Don’t be scared of your symptoms. It’s okay to cry. When you begin to feel gloomy, share your thoughts with someone you trust, or on a piece of paper. This also helps to keep perspective later on. Distract yourself- take a walk, read, go over to a coffee shop -anything that takes your mind off the stress for the time being.
6. Reduce other stress inducing factors like family fights, school pressures, absence of parents or changing residence.

Remind the patient that you love them, and will always support them -that it will take time but it is possible to live a healthy life with PTSD.

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