Living with Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder

Living with Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) impacts all aspects of life. 

Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder: Diagnosis & Symptoms

According to the latest Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorder (DSM-5), Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder is diagnosed in individuals who meet 5 major criteria. Additionally, PTSD is diagnosed in those where the below criterion exist for more than a month, are not due to medication, drugs, or other substances, and create considerable functional impairment for the individual.

Criterion A

The individual was exposed to or threatened with death, serious injury, or sexual violence by personally experiencing the event, witnessing somebody else experience the event, or experience it indirectly (hearing about it a lot, hearing about it from first responders, etc.).

Criterion B

The individual experiences one or several intrusive symptoms like intrusive thoughts. These include, but are not limited to, nightmares, flashbacks, and a physical response to a reminder of the trauma. An example of an intrusive thought could be when an individual is having a perfectly fine day, and suddenly they have a flashback of the traumatic event.

Criterion C

The individual avoids trauma-related stimuli. This can be certain thoughts or external reminders of the event.

Criterion D

The individual has negative thoughts or feelings that are worsened after the trauma.

Criterion E

The individual experiences changes in arousal, including irritability, aggression, difficulty concentrating, difficulty sleeping, hypervigilance, and more. For example, a victim may be easily startled. Often a person with PTSD, like a veteran, may react to a truck making a loud noise that resembles what they went through. Something like that can be very triggering.

Treating Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder

The two most  widely utilized treatments for PTSD are psychotherapy and medication.  In terms of medication, consultation with a psychiatrist for a complete evaluation is the first step. Psychotropic medicine often proves quite helpful for symptom reduction. 

In terms of therapy, individual and/or group therapy are both useful modalities for those suffering from PTSD.  Therapy decreases isolation, reinstates a sense of control, and affords an opportunity to create a long-term strategy to understand and feel better equipped to manage symptoms. Many patients find the greatest relief when they receive both psychiatric and psychological intervention together.

In my experience, for those that choose to pursue therapy, making the initial appointment is often the hardest part. Long-term, there are many factors that appear to play a role in how successful therapy is. One factor is the proximity between the onset of symptoms and when treatment begins. More specifically, people who seek treatment earlier on tend to have less intense and long-lasting symptoms than those that wait. Finding a therapist who is a good fit for you and attending sessions consistently over time, will have the most impactful and long-lasting results. People vary in terms of when they report feeling improvement. Typically, within 5-10 sessions, patients report a significant reduction in the intensity of symptoms. Often the first session alone will provide a greater sense of calm as well as hopefulness about the future.

How to Manage Living with Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder

If you are experiencing symptoms of PTSD, professional help to address your symptoms is warranted. However, there are also steps you can take on your own.  There is substantial research demonstrating that the mind-body connection is instrumental in healing. Taking steps to feel more connected with your body and the world around you can be enormously useful. 

●      Meditating

●      Connecting with nature

●      Grounding exercises that focus on breathing

●      Journaling

Contact Dr. Arian Elfant

Dr. Arian Elfant is an Uptown, New Orleans-based therapist who specializes in helping those living with PTSD. Dr. Elfant has years of experience treating patients who have experienced trauma. Contact her with all your questions online or call her at (504) 319 - 6800.