Living In Fear

Signs Of PTSD

Post traumatic stress disorder is a mental illness that is diagnosed after a person experiences symptoms for greater than 1 month. Imagine being paralyzed in fear on a daily basis because the trauma you have experienced in the past is continuously haunting you. You almost become afraid to live.

PTSD occurs after a person has experienced a very traumatic event: returning from the war in Iraq, experiencing hurricane Katrina, being raped, tortured, kidnapped, etc. Any traumatic event can induce PTSD in a person. Think of PTSD as your mind having experienced such a great shock, that it cannot shake it off; the aftershocks persist day and night.

The common symptoms of PTSD include:

  • Agitation and hypervigilance
  • Irritability and hostility
  • Flashbacks
  • Guilt
  • Depression
  • Nightmares and insomnia
  • Heightened reactions and severe anxiety

Many patients with PTSD turn to substance abuse because they find that the alcohol and drugs alleviate their symptoms. But little do they know that the alcohol and drugs are only temporary bandaids; the symptoms return after they wear off. And in the background, an addiction slowly starts to cook.

Patients with PTSD will avoid certain roads or places in public that reminds them of their traumatic experience. For instance, a war veteran may avoid alleyways after remembering an ambush in Fallujah. A patient may avoid driving on the highway after recalling the traumatic incident when a drunk driver swerved into her vehicle at 60 MPH.

When patients start avoiding certain places in public, it becomes almost crippling. Some patients’ symptoms are so severe that they no longer feel like a functional and productive member of society; they become isolated with a bottle of Jack in one hand and a .44 Special in the other.

Psychotherapy and antidepressants work for some patients but not for others; many are so depressed that they eventually commit suicide. A new potential drug on the horizon is currently undergoing phase 3 clinical trials: MDMA. Also known as “Molly” or “Ecstasy”, MDMA combined with psychotherapy has been shown to be very promising in treating patients with PTSD.

But until we come up with more effective treatments, our role should be to promote open and comfortable talks about mental illness. We need to come together, share our stories and end the stigma. The act of talking, sharing and listening are very healing processes. We are the new generation who can deliver and improve mental health for the future generations to follow!

Are you Ready? (This is Defeating Stigma Mindfully)

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