Stress and PTSD

Introduction

This article will be focusing on Stress and some facts you need to know about stress. We will also be looking at Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) which is another type of mental health issue emanating from stress that people rarely talk about and it, in turn, has a huge impact on someone’s mental well-being.

The meaning of stress

Stress is a natural reaction in which forces from the inside or outside world affect an individual, either one’s emotional or physical well-being, or both. The individual responds to stress in ways that affect the individual, as well as their environment. Due to the overabundance of stress in our modern lives, we usually think of stress as a negative experience, but stress can be a neutral, negative, or positive experience looking at it from a biological point of view. Generally, stress is related to both external and internal factors. External factors include the physical environment, including one’s job, their relationships with others, their home, and all the situations, challenges, difficulties, and expectations individuals are confronted with on a daily basis. Internal factors determine the body’s ability to respond to and deal with, the external stress-inducing factors. Internal factors which influence an individual’s ability to handle stress include their nutritional status, overall health and fitness levels, emotional well-being, and the amount of sleep and rest the individual gets.

Some Facts about Stress.

Stress is a normal part of life that can either help us learn and grow or can cause us significant problems.
Stress releases powerful neurochemicals and hormones that prepare us for action (to fight or flee).

Prolonged, uninterrupted, unexpected, and unmanageable stresses are the most damaging.

Stress can be managed by seeking support from loved ones, regular exercise meditation or other relaxation techniques, structured timeouts, and learning new coping strategies to create predictability in our lives.

Maladaptive ways of coping with stress are using drugs, pain medications, alcohol, smoking, and unhealthy eating habits; would worsen the stress and can make us more reactive to further stress.

Risk factors for unmanageable stress include a lack of adequate social support.

While there are promising treatments for stress, the management of stress is mostly dependent on the ability and willingness of a person to make the changes necessary for a healthy lifestyle.

PTSD

Stress and PTSD

What is Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)?

Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is a condition where people develop a certain set of symptoms following a traumatic event. PTSD can begin immediately after the traumatic event has happened, or it might begin weeks, months or years later. A diagnosis of PTSD is based on someone’s thoughts, feelings, and behaviour. It is important to remember that a diagnosis is not a label. It is a tool to help professionals decide what type of treatment and support to offer the individual.

Symptoms of PTSD include:

  • Reliving the traumatic event through flashbacks, intrusive thoughts or nightmares.
  • Constantly feeling on edge and alert, experiencing high anxiety or panic attacks.
  • Avoiding feelings or memories of the event by keeping busy or avoiding talking about the event.
  • Not being able to remember the event, through dissociation or feeling physically or emotionally numb.
  • Prevalence of PTSD

It is estimated around 4.4% of the population will fit the criteria for a PTSD diagnosis in any week. It is also difficult to know how common PTSD is, as many people describe it in different ways and many will never receive a formal diagnosis.

Some misconceptions about PTSD

Some people hold unhelpful beliefs about what PTSD means, some assume PTSD only affects people who have been involved in a war. However, any traumatic event can cause PTSD. These include neglect and abuse in childhood, accidents, a violent or sexual attack, harassment or bullying and many more. Some of these inaccurate beliefs prevent people from taking their own or other people’s problems seriously and can stop people getting the help they need and may lead to the loss of friends, family relationships, jobs, homes, and even lives.

How does PTSD affect people’s lives?

The symptoms of PTSD can be extremely difficult to deal with. They find it hard to maintain relationships, to work or even carry out simple day to day tasks. Some people find it so difficult to cope that they self-harm, turn to alcohol or drugs, or take their own lives. People who experience PTSD will often have to deal with symptoms at varying degrees for the rest of their lives. However, there are treatments and coping strategies which can help people to manage their symptoms and live healthy and fulfilling lives.

How to help someone with PTSD

Learn about PTSD: Study about PTSD. This may help you to understand what your friend or family member is going through and help you to feel more confident in offering support, the Mind and Rethink Mental Illness websites might help you to learn more.

Do not be judgemental, be patient: The symptoms of PTSD are very normal human reactions to often tragic events. It may seem like your friend or family member should be ‘moving on’ by now, but they need time and support to heal. Try not to put pressure on them or make assumptions about how they ‘should’ be behaving.

Ask them how you can help. Everybody is different and there is no one way to help someone experiencing PTSD. If you want to support a friend or loved one, one of the best things to do is ask them how.

Give them information about support services: Sometimes the support of friends and family is not enough. Letting them know about the support they can get from the NHS private healthcare or organisations can also be helpful (or any healthcare/organisation where you are based/living). As well as treatment provided by medical professionals, such as psychological therapies and medication, community-based support related to lifestyle, education or social activities can also help someone stay well.