Does Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder Go Away?

GinaMarie Guarino, LMHC

Symptoms Of PTSD

The memories of fear and pain that a person feels when going through a traumatic event will not go away. They are significant and influential memories that will have a deep and withstanding impact on a patient.

It is possible to decrease how intensely these memories affect the patient. With therapy the emotional and behavioral responses can be corrected and a person can return to his or her normal self.

It does take time, patience, and commitment to therapy, but it is possible to recover from PTSD and live a healthy, happy life.

Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is a disorder that has a profound and devastating effect on a person’s life. It is developed after a person experiences a traumatic event, like abuse, assault, or near-death experience. Patients who have PTSD often experience a shift in personality. The way in which they see themselves and the world are deeply affected. PTSD causes a patient’s self-image, perspective on life, and overall ability to function to be negatively impacted.

When a patient develops PTSD, he or she will experience changes in their behavior and mental health, like:

  • Withdrawal from friends and family
  • Irritability and mood swings
  • Disinterest in things he or she used to enjoy
  • Hypersensitivity, especially when confronted by a trigger
  • Panic attacks
  • Depression
  • Acute anxiety
  • Insomnia

PTSD is an intrusive disorder that often causes a patient to lose hope in recovery, but it is possible to recover from PTSD. People often wonder if PTSD ever goes away, and it is a complicated question to answer. The memories of the events that deeply impacted the patient do not go away. The goal of therapeutic intervention is to lessen the emotional and behavioral response associated with those memories. Some common responses to the memories of traumatic experiences include:

  • Flashbacks
  • Nightmares
  • Hypersensitive threat-reaction response (fight-or-flight)
  • Rage and irritability
  • Fearfulness
  • Guilt and shame

Each of these responses to PTSD are overpowering to a patient. It is important for a patient suffering from PTSD to seek counseling. If the patient does not, it is likely he or she will develop maladaptive coping strategies. Common maladaptive coping strategies include:

  • Suppression – the pushing down or bottling up emotions and memories
  • Dissociation – a mental and spiritual disconnect from one’s body in a time of stress
  • Displacement – taking out anger, fear and frustrations on others

While these coping strategies may seem effective in the moment of high stress, they can be damaging to the patient. When a person engages in these maladaptive coping strategies he or she prevents the brain from processing the information. This prevents the patient from being able to differentiate between real and imagined danger.

It is important to get counseling to avoid the development or strengthening of maladaptive coping strategies. Recovery from PTSD is a grueling and emotionally taxing process, but it is effective. It will not erase the traumatic event(s) that the patient experienced, but it will help the patient learn how to accept, grieve, and understand the situation without having to relive it.

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