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PTSD Treatment in Mt. Laurel

Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) is commonly referred to as a mental health issue, but not everyone understands the severity of symptoms and the problems that PTSD can cause. According to the United States Department of Veteran’s Affairs (VA), each year approximately eight million people in America alone have reported having PTSD. Unfortunately, some people view PTSD as a weakness, while the media sometimes misrepresents what it’s like to suffer from the condition.

PTSD is a psychiatric disorder, first defined by the American Psychiatric Association in 1980. It is defined as a disorder that arises as the result of an individual witnessing a terrifying or frightening event. It can also be the result of a violent attack, rape or accident.

Historically, when American soldiers returned from the war in Vietnam, many suffered similar symptoms due to what they had experienced during combat. The name post-traumatic stress disorder was used for their collective disorder. 

Prior to the Vietnam war, soldiers suffered from similar symptoms to PTSD, however, it was referred to as shell shock. Both male and female soldiers returning home from U.S. conflicts in the Middle East suffer from high rates of PTSD— the VA reported that about 12 percent of soldiers returning from Iraq or Afghanistan suffered from PTSD.

Long term emotional or physical abuse can cause an adolescent to experience PTSD, especially if the abuse included sudden attacks, yelling or other shocking behavior. They may also experience PTSD if an event or long-term abuse made them fear for their life.

In modern cases and with adolescents, the symptoms of PTSD normally begin three months after the shocking event, and they stop the sufferer from regular daily activities like going to school. To fit the diagnosis, the symptoms are usually required to last at least a month. The symptoms can be categorized into four different areas: re-experiencing, avoidance, arousal and reactivity, and cognition and mood symptoms.

When an adolescent experiences recurring nightmares, flashbacks or frequent dark thoughts surrounding the root of their PTSD, they are re-experiencing the event. This may come with sweating, dry mouth and a racing heart. The symptoms of avoidance are blocking one’s thoughts, or refusing to return to the area where the event happened. Outbursts, sleep problems, tension and extreme jumpiness are all part of the arousal and reactivity category. The cognition and mood symptoms include feelings akin to depression, such as loss of interest in activities, guilt, negativity and memory distortion.

Only a psychiatrist or psychologist has the ability to diagnose a person with PTSD, regardless of age. If you believe that a child is experiencing these symptoms, there is help. PTSD is not something that anyone should attempt to diagnose and take care of on their own.

The side effects of PTSD may interfere with the ability to interact socially or at school, and may also prompt suicidal thoughts. There may be environmental triggers that may include firecrackers, car horns or even a stranger’s appearance or behavior triggering a flashback, that can cause the symptoms to spiral out of control. 

It’s imperative to consult the help from a mental health professional. Adolescent survivors of trauma or abuse can also take advantage of numerous sources of free counseling through local non-profits, community centers and churches in cases where a parent or guardian aren’t able to get treatment through their medical provider.

While PTSD may feel like a lifelong affliction, there are treatment options that work. Doctors will prescribe antidepressants to some sufferers of PTSD, either alone or in conjunction with other therapy. Some of the commonly prescribed medications are Prozac, Paxil, Zoloft or Effexor. These medications work by altering serotonin levels and helping to block bad memories. Antidepressants don’t work for everyone, and other treatment choices may include antipsychotics, beta-blockers or other inhibitors.

Another therapy option is psychotherapy, which involves a series of proactive steps to help with the base feelings of fear that is causing PTSD and its related symptoms. Psychotherapy is effective because the patient is encouraged to talk about their trauma, either in a group setting or one on one. The therapy may be targeted at the root of the problem that caused PTSD, or it may be to help the patient with relating to the outside world. Treatment includes coping skills, identifying triggers and help for their families. Cognitive behavioral therapy may be used for treatment as well. Exposure therapy and cognitive restructuring are both cognitive behavioral therapies are both beneficial to helping the patient heal and regain their former life.

 Please contact me for a free 30 minute consultation.