Exploring the Link Between PTSD and Anxiety

PTSD and Anxiety

You’ve likely seen depictions of Posttraumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) on television or read about its effects on the news. It is a psychological disorder that affects millions, and its symptoms can manifest in a variety of ways, some of which are debilitating. PTSD can occur after experiencing, witnessing, or simply hearing about a traumatic event. Having PTSD may make you more prone to developing any number of other anxiety disorders, which is why managing your PTSD is crucial. If you are struggling with PTSD and anxiety, you may be in search of a method of coping that alleviates the symptoms you are experiencing. Read on to learn more about what causes PTSD and how you can help manage its effects.

What Causes PTSD?

PTSD can stem from a number of causes. As stated above, PTSD typically occurs as a result of a traumatic experience. However, there may be no single event that contributed to your PTSD. The condition may occur from a culmination of traumatic events. Some of these include:

  •      Combat exposure
  •      Physical abuse
  •      Sexual abuse during childhood or adulthood
  •      Physical attacks
  •      Natural disaster
  •      Serious accidents, such as a car wreck

Not all people who experience or witness these events will develop PTSD, and some may develop the condition over time. It may take months or years before the onslaught of symptoms. Whether you develop PTSD and anxiety depends on a number of factors. These can include the intensity of the trauma, its duration, your reaction to the event or events, and the support you received following it.

There are four types of symptoms of PTSD:

Reliving the event

If you are reliving the events that caused your PTSD, you may have nightmares or bad memories, or you may experience flashbacks, in which you feel as if you are going through those particular events again.

Avoiding situations

You may avoid certain social situations or communicating with people who may act as triggers that cause you to remember the event. You might also avoid discussing or thinking about the event.

Negative Emotional Changes

The event or events that led to your PTSD may alter the way you think of yourself or others. Guilt, fear and shame are common emotions reported by those with PTSD. These feelings can affect personal relationships or cause you to become less interested in activities or hobbies you once enjoyed.

Hyperarousal

Your PTSD may cause you to feel jittery or constantly on alert. This may result in trouble sleeping or focusing.

Other problems associated with PTSD can include…

  •      Feelings of shame, hopelessness or despair
  •      Addiction to alcohol or other drugs
  •      Anxiety or depression
  •      Chronic pain or other physical symptoms
  •      Relationship problems
  •      Trouble with employment

PTSD and Anxiety

PTSD is just one of a variety of anxiety disorders. If you have PTSD, you may be at an increased risk of developing a number of anxiety disorders, which can include social anxiety disorder, panic disorder or obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD).

PTSD and Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD) are commonly linked and often experienced together. GAD is a condition that can manifest as excessive anxiety and/or worry, even in situations where there is little risk involved. The worry may be about job responsibilities, your health or the health of loved ones. Everyday life circumstances can be a source of worry for those with GAD. If you have GAD, you may experience symptoms such as edginess, restlessness, fatigue or impaired concentration. Other symptoms can include…

  •      Irritability
  •      Muscle aches
  •      Difficulty sleeping
  •      Sweating
  •      Diarrhea
  •      Hyperventilation
  •      Nausea

Studies have shown that about 17 percent of people who have or have previously had PTSD experience GAD as well. There are a number of theories that may explain why PTSD and anxiety are so closely related. If you have PTSD, you may be more likely to worry, which is one of the principle aspects of GAD.

Managing PTSD

Dealing with PTSD and anxiety can be an ongoing struggle. There are a number of coping mechanisms that may help alleviate the unwanted feelings associated with PTSD. Management may be possible through psychotherapy or medication or a combination of the two. All-natural products to complement diet and well-being are also ways to relieve anxiety and other negative emotions associated with this condition.

Psychotherapy as a Strategy for Coping with PTSD

Meeting with a therapist for counseling is just one proven method to help manage PTSD. Cognitive behavioral therapy, Cognitive Processing Therapy, and Prolonged Exposure therapy have helped many manage or overcome their PTSD.

Cognitive behavioral therapy is among the most effective management techniques for PTSD. Different types of cognitive behavioral therapy include exposure therapy and cognitive therapy.

Cognitive processing therapy entails learning skills that can help you understand how certain traumas have altered your thought processes and emotions.

Prolonged exposure therapy involves openly discussing your trauma repeatedly until the associated memories no longer cause emotional distress. This may entail going to places you previously avoided due to their relation to the trauma you experienced.

Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR) involves focusing on certain sounds or hand movements as you discuss your trauma.

Breathing Techniques

Practicing certain breathing techniques can be highly effective in managing anxiety disorders. Trauma survivors, for instance, may over-breathe while they are experiencing a flashback or other traumatic memories, which can contribute to a panic attack. Utilizing controlled breathing exercises can slow respiration rate and impact heart rate, blood pressure and other body responses. By breathing slowly, you can lower your arousal and reduce stress and tension. Practice controlled breathing techniques at the onset of your PTSD-related anxiety to create a sense of calm that can help you navigate the episode.

It’s important to find a method of coping that works best for you. As everyone with PTSD has a different experience, there is no one-size-fits-all approach to treatment. Determining the root cause of your PTSD is imperative to managing it. Whether through therapy, breathing exercises or natural medicine, there is help available to shed the unwanted feelings associated with the condition in hopes of living a happy, fulfilling life.

Do you wrestle with PTSD? How do you cope? Please share your experience.