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Anxiety and Stress Disorders

Dealing with PTSD

09/07/2005

Question:

In Dec. 2001, my ex-unexpectedly put a gun to my head twice, then unloaded (some) bullet`s then put the gun to his head pulling the trigger three times. I still can not believe that I remained as calm as I did at the time, I just assumed that it was a survival instinct that I had stongest at that point to protect my son more than myself. Over the last few years I have gone to several types of therapist, but still do not feel any safer or any further away from the fear that I was actually feeling the night of the event. Maybe I have not gotten the right kind of therapy, all I know is that I am sick of feeling this way. I wish there was some way that I could just have the memory erased, so I don`t have to keep reliving it almost daily in thoughts or dreams. Is there anything that you could suggest to me, I have contacted Vict.Witness and have been told that they do not have any programs for PTSD or related disorders. I miss being around people, but become frozen with fear when outside my comfort zone (my home). I want to live a normal life, to be able to give my son a normal life. I fear that if I am not able to get a handle on "these" fears and reactions that it will only get worse and cause my son seriouse damage in the future. I will appreciate any help that you can lend, Thank You very much.

Answer:

Well, it certainly sounds like you might be suffering from PTSD, or post traumatic stress disorder.  This is a serious form of an anxiety disorder that occurs after an individual experiences a serious event in their lives.  It may be an event that just happened to you, as you describe, or a large scale event, like the destruction from hurricane Katrina or serving in a war zone.

First, you should make sure that this diagnose really applies to you.  The diagnosis generally is made by a mental-health professional.  This will usually involve a formal evaluation by a psychiatrist, psychologist, or clinical social worker specifically trained to assess psychological problems.

Second, treatment should begin.  There are many kinds of treatment that are effective for PTSD, but not all are effective for every person.  some of the most common and most effective treatments are:

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT):  A kind of talking therapy that uses "thinking" to change emotions and behaviors.

Medications:  Medicines can reduce the anxiety, depression and insomnia that accompany PTSD.  Many kinds of antidepressants, including the SSRIs (selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors, like prozac, lexapro and zoloft) are commonly used and generally effective.

Eye movement desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR): This relatively new therapy combines techniques like eye movements and talking therapy to help move attention to thoughts.  The research on the effectiveness of this technique is still being done.

Group therapy:  This is often an ideal setting for PTSD sufferers because of the safety, cohesion and empathy provided by other survivors.

     If your therapy is not working, then perhaps your diagnosis is incorrect or you do not have the right therapy for you.  I encourage you to seek the guidance of a mental health professional in your community.  I am also including some weblinks that might be useful to you.

Good Luck.

Related Resources:

National Center for PTSD
NIMH PTSD

For more information:

Go to the Anxiety and Stress Disorders health topic, where you can:

Response by:

Nancy   Elder, MD Nancy Elder, MD
Associate Professor
College of Medicine
University of Cincinnati