Trauma can have a prolonged impact on someone’s life long after the traumatic event occurred. Posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is a mental health condition triggered by trauma, and it can manifest regardless of how long ago the trauma occurred. If PTSD is left untreated, it can be a persistent issue that affects how someone thinks and behaves.

Although PTSD may feel like a permanent struggle to those who suffer from it, there is hope for breaking free from trauma. Someone with PTSD can see drastic improvements in their lives by understanding the effect of PTSD on the brain and seeking the proper treatment they need.

Understanding PTSD

PTSD comes from experiencing something traumatic, whether it was prolonged trauma or an isolated event. Sometimes, PTSD doesn’t manifest until long after the original trauma took place. Flashbacks to the original trauma is common, and can leave someone feeling irritated, anxious, depressed, and socially isolated.

There are multiple symptoms associated with PTSD that affect someone’s behavior and mental health. Common PTSD symptoms can include:

  • Intrusive thoughts
  • Nightmares
  • Emotional numbness
  • Hypervigilance

PTSD can feel debilitating at times, and negative coping mechanisms will only exacerbate these symptoms. On top of affecting someone’s behavior, trauma is known to have a physical effect on the development of someone’s brain. 

Our full guide on PTSD provides a closer look at the symptoms of PTSD, as well as how it develops and how it can be treated.

PTSD has physical and emotional symptoms

PTSD’s Effect On The Brain

PTSD can alter brain structure and function. Traumatic experiences can disrupt neural pathways involved in processing emotions and memories, leading to the major symptoms of PTSD. If someone with PTSD encounters an event that reminds them of their original trauma, their neural pathways trigger an extreme stress response. Although this disorder impacts brain physiology and functions, there is still hope with the help from therapy.

For more information on PTSD’s effect on the brain, read our related article PTSD: Does Trauma Change the Brain for Good?

How is PTSD Diagnosed?

It is natural to have symptoms like detachment and anxiety following a traumatic experience. To fully diagnose someone with PTSD, a medical professional will do a full mental health assessment.. 

A doctor may diagnose someone with PTSD if they experience all of these symptoms for at least one month:

  • At least one re-experiencing symptom: flashbacks, recurring memories, distressing thoughts
  • At least one avoidance symptom: staying away from events, places, or thoughts that remind someone of their traumatic experience
  • At least two arousal and reactivity symptoms: being easily startled, feeling on edge, difficulty concentrating, difficulty falling asleep
  • At least two cognition and mood symptoms: negative thoughts about self or the world, ongoing negative emotions, loss of interest in activities, social isolation, difficulty feeling positive emotions

PTSD can interfere with someone’s daily life, cause intense negative emotions, and isolate someone from society. 

Typically, mental health disorders like PTSD are treatable rather than curable. “Cured” implies that all symptoms completely go away forever. Treating symptoms of PTSD aims to enhance someone’s quality of life through positive coping mechanisms. While some people may experience complete remission from their symptoms, others will find that their symptoms are much easier to manage. 

untreated ptsd can interfere with someone's daily life

Recovering From PTSD

The intensity of the experienced trauma and its symptoms plays a role in the treatment of PTSD. Those with more severe trauma will require longer and more intensive treatment. 

Those with chronic PTSD may not experience complete symptom remission, but their quality of life can improve significantly. Comorbid conditions and daily stressors will also have an effect on the duration of recovery. 

Recovery is a gradual process, but effective treatment and dedication will alleviate the burden of PTSD on someone’s life.

recovery from PTSD is a gradual process but effective treatment will help relieve symptoms

Treatment Options for PTSD

Working with a mental health professional that is experienced in treating trauma is essential to getting the help that someone requires. Mental health professionals will typically provide specialized therapies and may recommend medications to alleviate the symptoms. A variety of psychotherapies can help address harmful emotions and thoughts. Psychotherapy provides emotional support to those suffering from PTSD and provides guidance to their families.

A popular form of psychotherapy that is used to treat PTSD is eye movement desensitization and reprocessing (EMDR). EMDR helps someone process traumatic memories and reduce their emotional impact. EMDR is proven to be effective in helping individuals alleviate PTSD symptoms and regain control over their lives.

Read our full guide on EMDR to see how it can help resolve trauma and relieve PTSD symptoms.

Identifying Triggers

Part of the recovery and treatment process involves recognizing the triggers that may lead to anxiety or panic attacks. Some common PTSD triggers include:

  • Sights
  • Sounds
  • Trauma anniversaries 
  • Memories tied to trauma
  • Places that remind someone of where the trauma occurred

Although triggers are unavoidable in some instances, how someone responds to their triggers is an important part of the recovery process. By addressing the triggers with positive coping strategies, someone will be able to navigate stressful situations more effectively. 

Triggers can sometimes be so severe that it causes panic attacks. Read our guide on panic attacks to learn more about what they are and what to do if you’re having one. 

PTSD Doesn’t Go Away On Its Own. Inner Balance Can Help

Someone won’t be able to experience relief from PTSD if it’s left untreated. The only path to recovery is through proper treatment and continuous dedication. Recovery is a gradual process that involves continuously addressing the trauma and managing triggers with healthy coping skills. 

PTSD can go away through proper treatment

Our mental health professionals at Inner Balance are experienced in treating trauma and PTSD. Treatment programs are specifically designed to provide a supportive and safe environment to reverse the effects of trauma and provide the skills necessary to live a healthier life. 

Reach out today to start your recovery journey.

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Katy Kandaris-Weiner, LPC

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