A friend of mine narrated to us a story once that made us laugh until we started to cry until we realized that it was a mental illness. The shower in her bathroom was spolit, and was emitting smoke and fire sparks. Initially, she would ignore the smell and use the shower, but when she realized how dangerous it was she stopped using it altogether. One night she was asleep and suddenly she jumped out of bed and started saying out loud that the shower had caused a fire. It took her about five minutes to calm down when she realized that she had been dreaming. When the story was told to us we laughed so hard that it became uncomfortable, but now we know better.
A few weeks later, she called me once more to narrate another ‘funny’ story. She said that she would wake up in the middle of the night and suddenly feel the need to check on her mother and all her siblings just to make sure they were still breathing. She would suddenly get serious anxiety at the thought that something could have happened to them and that they could be dead. This was when I realized that something was terribly amiss, and I advised her to see a therapist. Her father had passed on less than a year before after a traumatic series of events, and the way I saw it, she was traumatized from that situation. That’s why death was always on her mind and she was always scared that her loved ones were in danger. Eventually, she was diagnosed with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. Luckily, she was able to rise above this illness and is now much better.
Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (P.T.S.D) is a mental health condition that is triggered by a terrifying event — either experiencing it or witnessing it. Symptoms may include flashbacks, nightmares and severe anxiety, as well as uncontrollable thoughts about the event. Most times, these symptoms do not show up immediately after the traumatic incident. They can start to show up weeks after the incident.
Here are five things you need to know about PTSD:
- PTSD symptoms can take up to years to develop
A suspected case of PTSD cannot be dismissed based on the fact that it happened years ago because the condition can start exhibiting itself years after the traumatic event. In usual circumstances, the symptoms will be seen a few weeks or months after the incident, but this can take much longer. Delayed-onset PTSD of this type has mostly been observed among the elderly, who may develop PTSD stemming from a traumatic event that occurred when they were much younger.
- A person who suffers from PTSD is likely to develop other forms of mental illness such as depression and severe anxiety
Like most mental illnesses, this too can lead to other mental conditions. PTSD has been said to cause depression. Both illnesses affect your mood, energy levels, emotions and interests. Research actually shows that almost half the people who suffer from PTSD also suffer from depression. People who’ve had PTSD at some point in their lives are three to five times more likely to develop depression than individuals who didn’t experience PTSD.
- In the healing process, therapists encourage an exposure based life
When you are healing from this mental condition, exposure therapy is highly encouraged. It targets learned behaviours that people engage in (most often the avoidance) in response to situations or thoughts and memories that are viewed as frightening or anxiety-provoking. The person with PTSD will be advised to confront their fears and worries. They are advised to allow themselves to feel, rather than running away from these problems. It’s important to grow through what you are going through, and you can only do that by really allowing yourself to feel. That’s why it’s important to get to the root of the PTSD because then and only then will you be able to rise above it.
- The effects of PTSD are physical as well
PTSD is more than just a mental illness because it has been linked to physical issues in the body as well. This includes poor cardiovascular health and gastrointestinal problems. Moreover, the person may also experience issues such as obesity and increased risk of hypertension. This is solid confirmation for all those people who still dismiss mental illness as ‘white people problems.’ It’s not just mental, it can also translate to physical symptoms.
- It’s not ‘all in the head’
It’s completely disheartening when people disregard mental illnesses saying that it’s all in the person’s head. I mean it’s true, mental illness is all in the head, but this statement suggests that all you have to do to rise out of it is focus on something else. This is misleading information because PTSD is associated with increased cortisol and norepinephrine responses to subsequent stressors. Cortisol and norepinephrine are stress hormones. They maintain fluid balance and blood pressure in the face of stress. However, when the levels of stress are too high, the overproduction of cortisol leads to a host of other problems such as suppressing the immune system, increasing blood pressure and sugar, decreasing libido, producing acne and contributing to obesity. So yes, it is all in the head, but that doesn’t make it any less of a problem.
- The good news is that after a person rises out of PTSD, they may experience Post-traumatic growth
This is the positive transformation that can grow out of adversity, out of trauma and PTSD. The theory of its existence was developed by psychologists Richard Tedeschi, PhD, and Lawrence Calhoun, PhD, in the mid-1990s, and holds that people who endure psychological struggle following adversity can often see positive growth afterward.