Home Mental Health & Well-Being 7 Signs of PTSD and Possible Treatments Provided by Medical Director and PTSD Expert

7 Signs of PTSD and Possible Treatments Provided by Medical Director and PTSD Expert

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1 in 10 people in the UK are expected to experience PTSD at some point in their lives, with women aged 16–24 being the most likely to be diagnosed with PTSD (12.6% of the female population in this age range).

While many people may recognise they’re struggling after a traumatic event, they may not be aware that they have PTSD, and up to 70% of people with the disorder do not receive any professional support.

Dr Anup Mathew, medical director, associate professor, and PTSD expert from Alternaleaf, explains: “Post-traumatic stress disorder, or complex post-traumatic stress disorder (C-PTSD), can often be misdiagnosed as other mental health concerns, such as anxiety and depression, as there are some shared symptoms. While symptoms of PTSD often begin within three months of the traumatic event, they sometimes emerge later, leaving people confused by the route of their struggles.”

To raise awareness of the debilitating condition and the treatments available, Dr Anup Mathew at Alternaleaf has shared seven common signs of PTSD and possible treatments:

1. Intrusive memories 

“Recurrent, unwanted memories of a traumatic event, including flashbacks or nightmares, are a common symptom of PTSD. Vivid and often distressing memories of a trauma can make a person feel as though they’re reliving the event itself, which can lead to high levels of physical and emotional reactions.”

2. Negative changes in your mood

“PTSD can often affect how a person feels overall and can also lead to significant shifts in mood, known as mood swings. These negative thoughts can be about oneself, other people, feelings about the future, or work, and they can make it difficult to maintain close relationships. These mood changes can often leave people feeling quite isolated and misunderstood; for some, the overall change in moods can result in feeling numb to emotion.”

3. Changes in physical and emotional reactions

“Being easily startled or frightened at sudden movements or loud noises can often be associated with PTSD. This symptom can lead to hypervigilance, where someone is so alert and constantly on guard that their anxiety is heightened to a huge extent.”

“Irritability can also be a telling sign of PTSD and frequent or aggressive outbursts which are out of character could highlight that someone was struggling.”

4. Severe emotional distress

“When exposed to conversations or memories of a traumatic event, someone who has PTSD will often experience extreme emotional distress. Physical signs of this, such as sweating, nausea and a rapid heartbeat, should be discussed with a medical professional in order to seek treatments.”

5. Sleep issues

“There are many reasons why someone with PTSD may struggle with sleep. Getting to sleep can be made difficult due to hyperarousal and intrusive thoughts, and once asleep, one can often be woken up by nightmares or anxiety.”

“People with PTSD may feel the need to be on guard to protect themselves from danger. It is difficult to have restful sleep when you feel the need to be always alert or are startled easily by noise.”

6. Detachment

“Feeling disconnected from others and surroundings can often be a symptom of PTSD and can stem from the feeling that nobody else understands or can relate to what you’re going through. This lack of connection can also prevent someone dealing with PTSD from feeling positive emotions or experiences and lead to numbness.

“Detachment can lead to people distancing themselves from friends, family, and social situations, and in some circumstances, work or general errands such as shopping can lead to worry about leaving the home at all.”

7. Derealisation

“People experiencing PTSD can sometimes feel as though they’re in a dreamlike state where life can feel and look distorted or unreal. In some cases, when this symptom is particularly persistent, a subtype of PTSD called dissociative PTSD can be diagnosed. Almost 15% of people with PTSD also experience depersonalisation and derealisation to some extent, but to meet the diagnostic criteria for “PTSD with dissociative symptoms”, a person with PTSD must also experience persistent or recurrent symptoms of either depersonalisation or derealisation in response to the stressor.”

Treatments

Dr Anup comments, “There are limited treatment options for PTSD, namely medication or talking therapy. The medication options can lead to severe side effects that include nausea, stomach upset, and sexual dysfunction.

“Talking therapy is mainly trauma-focused cognitive behavioural therapy or EMDR (eye movement desensitisation and processing), both of which have long waiting lists and poor engagement rates due to the emotional dysregulation patients inevitably experience during therapy. Medical cannabis can be an excellent option for many people suffering from PTSD, especially if previous treatments have failed, and especially to support patients undergoing talking therapy.”

Although medical cannabis was legalised in 2018, Dr Anup says many remain unaware of its legal status: “There’s still a lack of awareness around medical cannabis and how it can be used to treat different conditions. I’ve seen first-hand how medical cannabis can help people suffering from PTSD. I feel we’ll see many more people opting for medical cannabis as opposed to pharmacological medications in the coming years as more and more people become aware of the fact that medical cannabis is legal, along with it being extremely safe and effective.

“Many people with PTSD could qualify for medical cannabis treatment, and due to their ability to self-refer, it could be a helpful solution as part of a treatment plan.”

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