As far as serious anxiety disorders go, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is a condition that often goes undiagnosed. According to the American Family Physician resource site, as many as eight to nine percent of the U.S. population suffers from post-traumatic stress disorder with 30 percent of sufferers having undergone significant trauma in their lifetimes.
Identifying PTSD marks the first step towards being able to manage it. If you or someone you know has experienced a traumatic event and suffers from symptoms involving sleep loss, depression and ongoing anxiety, here are five ways to help manage post-traumatic stress disorder symptoms.
Identify Your Emotions
People affected by post-traumatic stress disorder often experience strong emotional responses to people and situations. The stronger the emotion the harder it can be to control it. Learning to identify your emotions makes it easier to control strong emotions when they surface.
Identifying emotions entails becoming aware of the thought patterns that most often trigger certain responses. Bodily responses, such as increased heart rates can be another clue to an emotional response. Behaviors or urges to react in certain ways are also indicative of a developing emotional response.
Unexpected emotional responses are typical for someone living with post-traumatic stress disorder. Be it an out-of-the-blue flashback or a particular setting, trauma triggers can bring on a flood of emotions in an instant. Self-soothing techniques enable a person to regulate and control unexpected emotions.
Self-soothing involves connecting with one or more of the five senses (sight, sound, taste, smell, tough) as a way to refocus your attention and regain control of your feelings. Examples of self-soothing techniques include:
- Taking a long soak in the tub
- Sipping a favorite tea
- Watching a funny movie
- Listening to soothing or relaxing music
- Lighting scented candles
For many people affected by post-traumatic stress disorder, coping with strong, uncomfortable emotions means suppressing them or pushing down. In the process, these emotions grow strong since they have no outlet for release or expression.
Journaling provides a healthy outlet for expressing unresolved emotions in a safe environment. By writing down painful experiences and related feelings, a person can make sense out of what once were unresolved, unidentified emotions. In effect, giving these emotions expression allows emotional and psychological healing to take place.
When experiencing stress and anxiety, the body tends to go from breathing normally to taking short, shallow breaths. Short, shallow breaths deprive the body of needed oxygen supplies, which only increases stress and anxiety levels. People affected by post-traumatic stress disorder can use breathing as a way to keep their emotions at bay. By making it a habit to breathe normally, a person can reduce stress and anxiety levels on an ongoing basis.
A person’s social support system can have a huge impact on overall well-being. This is especially true for people living with post-traumatic stress disorder. While friends and family are good to have, support groups that focus on the types of issues PTSD sufferers deal with can be of great help in coping with life’s ups and downs. Support group members also provide a means of emotional validation for one another as each member shares their challenges and triumphs.
American Family Physician