Traumatic events can have a lasting impact on your mental health. If you've experienced a violent assault or a serious accident, or if you've been involved in active combat, you may have an ongoing emotional response for days or even weeks. But if you've been haunted by trauma for months or years, you may have a condition called post-traumatic stress disorder, or PTSD.
PTSD is distinguished from other forms of anxiety by episodes, which are delayed stress reactions to the trauma you experienced in your past. These episodes are frightening when they occur but, with proper treatment, they can be effectively controlled.
What Happens During a PTSD Episode
A PTSD episode is characterized by feelings of fear and panic, along with flashbacks and sudden, vivid memories of an intense, traumatic event in your past. These memories are often accompanied by sensory experiences; visions, sounds, and even smells from the incident may return, as if they are happening in the present moment. Perceiving imminent danger, your brain will go into a state of alarm: your heart races, you sweat profusely, and your breath speeds up. The feeling is all-consuming, intense, and often debilitating.
How to break out of a PTSD episode
While you may feel helpless when you're experiencing an episode, there are a few things you can do to help break out of it.
When anxiety strikes, we often take quick, shallow breaths, which can exacerbate the symptoms of an intense PTSD episode. Slow, deep breathing can lower your heart rate and reduce feelings of panic, restoring oxygen flow through your body.
Talk yourself down
If you're having a flashback, tell yourself that the sensations you're experiencing aren't real, that they are merely memories of the past. Remind yourself that you're currently safe and in control.
Running, jumping, or walking around can break you out of an episode by grounding you in the present moment and interrupting your body's stress response. It can also help by releasing endorphins to improve your state of mind.
Connect with others
Reach out to supportive friends and family members who can listen to your concerns, remind you of what's real, and assure you that you're not alone.
Manage your PTSD through healthy living
While PTSD episodes aren't always preventable, there are ways to help you lessen their intensity and reduce their frequency. Forming healthy habits and educating yourself on your symptoms can go a long way toward improving your life. For example:
- Avoid triggers: Triggers are reminders of trauma and can come in many forms, such as sensations, thoughts, or even upsetting news stories. If you can identify specific triggers for your PTSD episodes, try to avoid them.
- Engage in self-care: A healthy mind and body can better respond to and recover from traumatic stress reactions. Eat a balanced and healthy diet, exercise regularly, get enough sleep, avoid doing drugs and alcohol, and take adequate time to relax.
- Practice mindfulness: Building a regular meditation practice can train your brain to calm down and focus, thereby reducing the symptoms of PTSD episodes. A study published in Military Medicine suggests starting with 20-minute meditation sessions, twice a day.
- Seek professional help: Most of the time, PTSD will not go away on its own. But with the help of a licensed, professional therapist, you will be able to work through traumatic memories, identify triggers, and develop coping strategies to conquer PTSD for the long term.
Get treatment for PTSD at Alvarado Parkway Institute
You don't have to suffer from the debilitating effects of post-traumatic stress disorder alone. Help is available at Alvarado Parkway Institute. We offer comprehensive and individualized PTSD treatment in San Diego, including one-on-one psychotherapy, medication management, support groups, and aftercare. To find out how our team of highly experienced medical professionals can help you heal from PTSD, call us today at (619) 485-1432.