Pandemic, riots lead to post traumatic stress disorder
By Sandra Schiele, Counsel House
What is post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and could you be suffering from it? According to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, there are eight criterion.
Criterion A refers to the stressor to which you are directly or indirectly exposed. In this instance, it would be the pandemic and riots. These relate to threatened or actual serious injury or death.
Criterion B pertains to this stressor being relived, such as unwanted memories, flashbacks, nightmares, emotional distress, increased heart rate, etc.
Criterion C relates to avoiding any stimuli that may remind you of the trauma: thoughts, feelings, physical sensations, persons, places, things, activities, etc.
Criterion D pertains to the negative thoughts, feelings and moods that worsened after the traumatic occurrence, including repressed memories, exaggerated blame of self or others, social isolation, etc.
Criterion E references alterations in arousal and reactivity. Now, what exactly does that mean? These include insomnia, irritability, easily startled, trouble concentrating, hyper vigilance, impulsivity, self-destruction, etc.
Criterion F says these symptoms (not all of them, just some from each category) have to last longer than a month.
Criterion G says these symptoms have to cause significant issues with such aspects of your life as work, school, family and other social settings.
Criterion H rules out substances and medical conditions as the cause.
Like all other behavioral health issues, the first step is to identify whether you are suffering from PTSD. The next steps relate to treatment. Journaling, psychotherapy, flooding and systematic desensitization are a few ways to address and treat this condition.
Journaling can be done with pen and paper, on a laptop, in your notes application of your device, on audio or via video. You can include a set format like SOAP, which stands for subjective data, objective data, assessment of the data and plan/next steps. Or, you can write using a free style that allows your thoughts and feelings to simply be expressed as you encounter them.
I recommend seeing a licensed therapist on an outpatient basis as these traumatic events will evoke a magnitude of mixed emotions which will require processing them in a safe and therapeutic environment.
Psychotherapists use such techniques as flooding to work through the fears. This involves exposing you to the memories of the traumatic event and integrating these memories and feelings to your day-to-day awareness.
Systematic desensitization is another behavioral therapy technique. It eases you into the painful memories instead of flooding you with them. It combines relaxation with a succession of images that gradually begin with those that are the least fear-provoking up to the images that are most traumatic. The goal is to retrain the brain to recognize this traumatic experience and to associate it with a more relaxed state of being.
Until next time, stay safe, stay positive; we will get through this together.
If we can be of assistance to you or a loved one, contact us at 812-738-3277 or via email at [email protected]. You can also access free mental health resources for Hoosiers, endorsed by Gov. Eric Holcomb, at https://bewellindiana.com/.
Editor’s note: Sandra Schiele is a licensed behavioral health specialist who practices at Counsel House in Corydon.