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Can Using Social Media Trigger PTSD?

While social media can be a positive outlet for people to connect or seek support, millions of headlines fill the space that may spark trauma for readers. Images and words are shared in an attempt to spark change and garner empathy from the viewer, but many times the sheer volume of devastating images has a heavy impact.

For example, the discussions surrounding the #MeToo movement brought awareness to a number of sexual assault allegations while also triggering survivors not ready to tell their story yet. Whether it’s violence, racism, the reality of climate change, international uprising, or mass shootings, social media has made it easier to access horrific news followed by multiple images or videos of the tragedy.

What’s worse is many times, we stumble upon these images without asking for them in the first place. Therefore, many viewers were not prepared for what they were about to see, causing their reactions to be more severe. Social media allows us to witness these events but doesn’t offer ways to take action. In return, this leaves viewers feeling powerless and causes them to carry anxiety, depression, helplessness, and isolation.

What is PTSD?

Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is a mental health disorder that develops after someone has experienced or seen a traumatic event. The traumatic event could have been life-threatening, such as combat, natural disasters, car accidents, sexual assault, or more. Trauma can also occur by witnessing things such as shootings or the abuse of another person. It’s important to note that the event doesn’t have to be a dangerous one as PTSD can occur due to the sudden, unexpected death of a loved one.

PTSD can develop at any age, but risk factors play a part in whether or not you’re susceptible. These risk factors include gender, childhood trauma, a history of mental illness or substance abuse, having little or no support after the traumatic event, feelings of extreme fear, or enduring trauma that lasted a long time.

The two types of PTSD are acute and chronic. Acute PTSD may cause flashbacks, nightmares, and anxiety related to past trauma. Chronic PTSD occurs when a person experiences a number of symptoms for at least one month after a traumatic event.

Symptoms of PTSD

There are four types of PTSD symptoms, but everyone experiences them in their own way.

The first is re-experiencing symptoms which occur when you are reminded of the trauma through flashbacks, nightmares, or frightening thoughts. Avoidance symptoms occur when you try to avoid situations or people that trigger memories. Arousal or reactivity symptoms cause you to feel jittery or on the lookout for danger. Finally, the fourth is cognition and mood symptoms which are negative changes in beliefs and feelings.

These symptoms can come and go over many years and could start soon after the traumatic event or sometimes months or years later. In order to be diagnosed, you have to experience at least one symptom from each of the four types. If you’re noticing these symptoms last longer than four weeks and impact your home or work life, then you may have PTSD.

Navigating Exposure to Distressing Content

It’s no secret that social media can negatively impact our mental health. The introduction of live-stream has allowed users to see graphic content as it unfolds in real-time. Viewers are no longer witnessing events after they happen, no matter how violent they may be.

Dr. Pam Ramsden, a researcher at the University of Bradford, surveyed 189 people in 2015 for their reactions to a range of events. She found that more than a fifth of respondents scored high on clinical measures of PTSD from seeing images on social media even if they had not experienced the events first-hand.

When you’re finding that content you view causes similar symptoms to PTSD, then it’s time to walk away. Recognize that you have the power to close an app or even delete it from your phone in order to restrict how much you have access to. You can also block specific hashtags and people. If you have friends that often post triggering content, don’t feel bad for muting them to protect yourself.

Another step you can take is to turn off notifications. Without notifications or timestamps, you no longer feel a sense of urgency to log on to see who commented on your post, what your cousin posted, or which article was recently shared by a friend. Overall, bringing more awareness to what you consume will help you interact with and process the events unfolding all around us.

If you’ve been through a dangerous, scary, or shocking event, even the most subtle reminders can trigger your body’s fight-or-flight response. Although social media has its perks, there are undoubtedly negative aspects that affect those with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). If you’re an avid Instagram, Snapchat, Twitter, or Facebook user, you have to be mindful of the accounts you follow or hashtags you search to avoid viewing traumatic content. If you are struggling with PTSD, the expert clinicians at Achieve Concierge can offer treatments to help heal your body, mind, and spirit for lasting results. We provide psychiatry services to both adults and adolescents in San Diego, California. Achieve Concierge provides medication and psychotherapy for PTSD to help our patients relieve feelings of irritability, guilt, loneliness, and other PTSD symptoms that interfere with living everyday life. For more information on the services Achieve Concierge provides, call us today at (858) 221-0344.

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How Can Active Combat Affect Military Personnel?

When it comes to war, most people would probably agree that they do not understand what it is really like. Only those who have lived it and came out alive on the other side know and feel the chilling memories of first-hand experiences of deployment into a combat zone. Family members and close friends experience a different kind of pain as they watch their loved ones deal with post-war trauma. The tragedies that come along with working in a warzone can haunt veterans for years and cause them long-term mental and physical pain. Whether you were in the Army, Navy, Marine Corps, Air Force, or Coast Guard, your indispensable service requires not only thanks but effective and wholesome treatment if you are suffering from subsequent physical and psychological discomfort. Luckily, there are ways to manage these issues and programs designed to help you recover.

Common Illnesses Vets Experience

Over two million American soldiers were deployed over the last decade. Depending on their branch and personal experiences, there are some different illnesses they may encounter. For example, veterans commonly report physical conditions like:

  • Lost limbs
  • Tinnitus and/or hearing loss
  • Shrapnel and gunshot wounds
  • Traumatic Brain Injuries (TBIs)

Severe stress from disturbing experiences can also lead to substance use disorder and/or mental health problems like anxiety, depression, schizophrenia, bipolar, and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). The risk of developing co-occurring conditions and attempting suicide are also major concerns. In fact, in 2018, over 1.7 million Veterans got mental health treatment in a VA specialty program. Similarly, a 2016 study published in the American Journal of Public Health found that over 1.1 million Veterans treated between 2010–2011 were diagnosed with at least one of the following disorders: substance use disorder, anxiety, schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, and PTSD.

 

PTSD: A Leading Condition Among Vets  

It may come as no surprise that PTSD is one of the leading disorders among military personnel. According to the U.S. Department of Veteran Affairs, this challenging condition is characterized by four main symptoms:

#1 Reliving the terrifying event at any moment and being triggered by sounds and situations. You might experience nightmares or flashbacks.

#2 Avoiding people, places, or things that remind you of the event (i.e. avoiding crowds, driving, certain movies).

#3 Experiencing increased negative thoughts and/or feelings (i.e. feeling numb or guilty, losing interest in old hobbies and loved ones, and thinking that the world is too dangerous and people can not be trusted)

#4 Being hyper-aroused or in a constant state of fight-or-flight. As a result, you may experience insomnia, difficulty concentrating, sudden anger or irritability, and become startled by a loud noise or surprise.

According to a JAMA Psychiatry study from 2014, the rate of PTSD among veterans is 15 times higher than that of the civilian population. The percentage of veterans suffering from PTSD also varies by service era. For example, it is estimated that approximately 20% of veterans who served in the Gulf War (Desert Storm) had PTSD in a given year. Similarly, 11-20% of those who served more recently in Operations Iraqi Freedom (OIF) or Enduring Freedom (OEF) experienced PTSD.

What Trauma Does to the Brain

Intrusive thoughts, nightmares, hyperarousal, flashbacks, sleep disturbances, and changes in memory, concentration, and startle responses are all related to how trauma alters brain function. Severe stress can cause long-term changes in brain circuits that regulate responses to stress, thus making future responses abnormal or irrational. The main parts of the brain associated with stress responses include the hippocampus, amygdala, and medial prefrontal cortex.

The hippocampus is central to emotions, learning, and memory formation, while the amygdala is involved in processing fearful and threatening stimuli. Similarly, the medial prefrontal cortex modulates aversive learning and memory. Cortisol, the primary stress hormone that mediates fear-related behaviors, and norepinephrine, another hormone that increases heart rate and blood pressure, are both central to the brain’s stress response.

Across numerous studies examining various types of PTSD patients including Vietnam and other combat veterans, varying degrees of reduced hippocampal volume were discovered. The researchers hypothesize that “stress-induced hippocampal dysfunction may mediate many of the symptoms of PTSD which are related to memory dysregulation, including both explicit memory deficits as well as fragmentation of memory…” They also found that amygdala function increased while medial prefrontal cortex function decreased. Patients with PTSD also demonstrated increased cortisol and norepinephrine in response to stress, which can harm the body over time.

Active military personnel and veterans live a life far different from most Americans. They have put their life on the line to protect our country, a service that often comes at a great cost to their health. Depression, anxiety, bipolar disorder, and schizophrenia are common mental conditions among soldiers. PTSD, in particular, can cause paralyzing flashbacks and nightmares that turn civilian life into a battlefield. Trauma alters regions of the brain central to healthy stress and fear responses. There is no shame in getting help and truth be told, it is the least we can do. At Achieve Concierge, it is our honor to assist you in recovering. We understand that trauma, whether it grows into PTSD or another disorder, doesn’t wait until you are in front of your therapist. It can hit at any time and that is why we offer same-day and next-day appointments. We’re here to help you, call (858) 221-0344.

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What is Ketamine Treatment?

For anyone battling a mental health disorder, it can be challenging to find an effective treatment plan that not only provides you long-lasting relief but doesn’t also come with unwanted side effects. Effective treatment isn’t always traditional antidepressants and therapy. Sometimes these methods don’t work well for all patients. That is why it is crucial for healthcare providers to continue seeking innovative, evidence-based treatment options that are proven to help individuals. 

Ketamine Infusion Therapy 101

 

For several decades, continued research has shown that ketamine included antidepressive properties. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved the use of ketamine for the induction and maintenance of anesthesia as it is a noncompetitive N-methyl-D-aspartate (NMDA) receptor, antagonist.  It induces dissociative anesthesia, providing patients with pain relief, sedation, and amnesia. 

It’s also a medication with fast-acting antidepressant properties that mental health experts have been studying with deep interest for over 20 years.

Ketamine infusion therapy has been incorporated into some treatment plans to help with psychiatric disorders such as major depressive disorder, bipolar disorder, and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), as well as acute suicidal ideation. It is also being used for post-operative and chronic pain management. It can involve the administration of a single infusion or a series of infusions and is usually administered by IV, which can have effects lasting for anywhere from days to weeks. Although ketamine is not considered a first-line therapy to treat chronic pain or mental health disorders, studies have shown that it can be used off-label to treat patients with severe cases of depression, bipolar, and PTSD who have not responded to more conventional medications or therapies. Because of its fast-acting, lasting relief, ketamine has been labeled the most important breakthrough in the treatment of depression. 

Fast-Acting Relief

 

As mentioned above, ketamine infusions have the advantage of providing patients with quick relief, oftentimes within hours. For those struggling with depression, or those who have not been able to find relief using other therapy methods, ketamine infusions have been able to bring them the relief they have been desperately seeking.

How Does it Work?

 

Researchers are still trying to pinpoint the mechanisms that provide the powerful effects, but they do know that ketamine helps to stimulate a rapid increase in glutamate. Glutamate is the main neurotransmitter that helps to encourage growth in a person’s brain. It strengthens and restores vital neural connections and pathways in regions in the brain that are impaired by depression. These new connections help to promote beneficial changes in brain circuit function. 

Relief for Veterans

 

In addition to helping those with debilitating depression, ketamine has also been shown to help ease the symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) that many veterans experience. 

According to a recent article published in 2019, 30 US military veterans with PTSD participated in an observational study and underwent six one-hour ketamine infusions. The reason for this study was to discover whether ketamine could be treated to assist those with PTSD. Each participant was given a starting dose of 1mg of body weight that was adjusted afterward based on their experiences. Researchers aimed to create a psychotherapeutic response that would help the patient to experience the optimum transpersonal and transformative experience. Infusions continued to be administered over a two to three-week period of time.

Although not all participants benefited from the study, those who did showed a significant decrease of symptoms at a 50% reduction. Researchers concluded that because ketamine infusion therapy induced a transpersonal dissociative experience, this is a valuable tool to help treat combat-related PTSD. Patients reported that the ability to change their belief system or “reset” their thought patterns allowed them to transform their perspective regarding their traumatic experience. 

High Rate of Success

 

Although ketamine infusion therapy is still being studied, research does show that it has a high rate of success when it comes to treating patients with persistent depression. With an excellent efficacy rate, ketamine infusion therapy has shown to benefit so many people who have not been able to achieve lasting relief through traditional medical solutions. 

How Safe is Ketamine Infusion Therapy?

 

Although recent studies have shown ketamine infusion therapy to be a success for some individuals, mental health experts advise caution when using ketamine as a means of effective therapy. This is due in part because there is not enough information regarding the potentially negative consequences. 

 

If you lined up 10 people with the same mental health disorder, chances are each one of them will disclose to you their own unique and individualized symptoms. Mental health is not a one-size-fits-all, and therefore effective treatment can’t be either. The National Alliance on Mental Illness reported that in 2019, 51.5 million adults in the United States experienced some form of mental illness. Approximately two in three people who suffer from major depression reported achieving lasting symptom remission through traditional forms of medications and therapy; one in three reported finding no relief. It doesn’t matter how small of a stat that may appear, no one should have to live in pain, whether it be psychological or physical. The mental health field continues to seek innovative, and evidence-based treatment for anyone struggling. Reach out to Achieve Concierge to learn more about ketamine infusion therapy. Call us today at  (858) 221-0344.

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Helping Your Soldier Battle PTSD

I was awakened by loud, erratic noises. I was still partially asleep, so I tried to push through the fog and figure out what was going on. Though I could hear the hustle and bustle of the city outside our downtown apartment, that wasn’t the noise that awoke me. My husband was frantically moving around our bedroom, mumbling words I couldn’t make out. It could have been that the words were incomprehensible, or that I wasn’t fully awake. I kept asking him what he was doing, only to receive replies that didn’t make sense to me. He was looking for his rifle, and he got angrier when he couldn’t find it. We didn’t have any guns in the house – what was he even talking about? As I watched him scurry about the bedroom shoveling things around, I realized he wasn’t mentally in that room. Physically, he was present, but mentally, he was back in Afghanistan. He was searching for the weapon that he had used so many times in combat – the weapon one that saved his life. His nightmares and dissociations would only increase in the years to come, and I soon realized I needed to do everything I could to help my husband manage his PTSD. 

If you have a loved one currently enlisted or who has served in the military, you’ll want to support them however you can. You’ll feel pride in the sacrifices they chose to make to protect the country they love and are honored to serve. Sometimes there’s a darkness that comes with the sacrifices that these men and women carry for a lifetime. Many veterans come home with deep pain that they can’t shake by themselves, and without access to the right tools and support, that pain can take over their lives.

The Link Between Military Service and PTSD

PTSD is commonly caused by a single traumatic event or the accumulation of numerous high-stress situations. Exposure to combat situations, live or simulated, can profoundly negatively impact a person’s mind and body. The correlation between military service and post-traumatic stress disorder is strong; it is estimated that as many as 500,000 U.S. troops who fought in wars over the past 13 years have been diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder. The U.S Department for Veterans Affairs lists that about 30% of Vietnam veterans and about 12% of Gulf War veterans have or had PTSD.

Symptoms of PTSD

Sometimes PTSD symptoms may not appear until your loved one comes home and attempts to return to civilian life. They may begin to develop night terrors or dissociate when triggered by different sounds, smells, or encounters. While they are undoubtedly doing their best to cope with what’s going on inside their head, the memories the body is trying to connect can be confusing, especially when a person is alone in trying to manage them. Symptoms of PTSD can include:

  • Feeling upset or discomforted by things that trigger memories
  • Difficulty sleeping due to nightmares and restlessness
  • Vivid memories or flashbacks of traumatic events
  • Feeling isolated 
  • Feeling numb 
  • Being constantly on guard or easily startled
  • Angry outbursts or hostility
  • Trouble concentrating
  • Anxiety and depression
  • Substance abuse
  • Self-harm and suicidal thoughts 

How to Help Your Veteran 

If you live with someone who’s battling PTSD, you will likely witness their symptoms and may even feel secondhand effects. Trying to help your loved one effectively manage their PTSD may require turning to professional help, and there’s nothing wrong with that. While you may not be able to cure them on your own, there are steps you can take to make a difference right away.

Educate Yourself. Take the time to learn about PTSD and recognize its symptoms. Like most mental illnesses, there’s a great deal of stigma surrounding PTSD. Try to relate to your loved one’s emotional experience by gaining an understanding of how PTSD makes them feel.

Be Supportive. They will likely experience some form of social isolation. This can arise from feeling unsafe, experiencing anxiety, or worrying about being judged. Support their choices to skip events, and don’t presume to know better than they do.

Be Patient and Listen. Don’t pressure them to tell you what happened or why they are feeling a certain way. If they decide to open up to you, just listen. Provide a space where they feel safe and comfortable.

Learn Their Triggers. Being able to identify your loved one’s triggers can allow you to help them avoid those situations whenever possible. Symptoms of PTSD can be triggered by sounds, smells, people, locations, events, and even types of weather or environment.

Encourage Them to Seek Treatment: 

Fortunately, there is treatment for those who have PTSD. Two types of treatment have shown to be particularly effective in addressing PTSD: counseling and medication. These can both help your loved ones find stability, learn coping mechanisms, and manage their symptoms.

 

Watching your loved one struggle with symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder, or PTSD, can be challenging and heart-wrenching. Though you want to help them, you may not know how, causing you to feel closed off from them and powerless. There are ways for you to show your soldier that you see them and that you are there to support them through trying times. It is important to learn to recognize their triggers, watch for symptoms, and educate yourself. For expert guidance on how to help your soldier fight this battle, reach out to Achieve Concierge. Our expert clinicians provide care for PTSD that aims to treat the entire body, which helps achieve positive long-term results. PTSD is not an easy battle, and you don’t need to face it alone. Get your loved ones the help they need to move forward. Reach out to us today for a free treatment consultation. Call Achieve Concierge at (858) 221-0344 to learn more.

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How to Cope With Multiple Mental Illnesses

Mental illness can affect every aspect of your life and make daily responsibilities very challenging. It can cause disruptive sleep patterns, low job performance, and poor eating habits. When you have a mental illness, you can feel extreme fatigue and lose interest in activities you once enjoyed. While many people struggle with mental health problems, it is possible to be diagnosed with multiple mental illnesses, making coping with symptoms very difficult.

A mental illness, also sometimes known as a mental health disorder, is a condition that affects your mood, behavior, and thinking. Some mental illnesses may occur short-term, and others can be chronic. A diagnosis of two or more mental health disorders is known as a co-morbid condition.

Different Types of Mental Illnesses

Mental illnesses are more common than most people think, affecting one in five adults in the U.S. each year. Some mental health disorders can be severe and, in some cases, life-threatening. There are different types of mental illnesses, with some being more common than others.

Anxiety disorders make you feel intense fear that can prevent you from performing daily activities. According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness, anxiety disorders are a common mental health condition that affects more than 40 million adults in the U.S. Many children are also affected by anxiety disorders.

There are five major types of anxiety disorders:

  1. Generalized anxiety disorder (GAD)
  2. Obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD)
  3. Panic disorder
  4. Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)
  5. Social anxiety disorder

Anxiety disorders can vary in severity for each individual. People who have general anxiety may experience a wide range of symptoms, such as difficulty concentrating, restlessness, fast breathing, or rapid heart rate. Although anxiety disorders can be challenging, they are treatable.

Bipolar disorder is a chronic mental illness that makes a person experience recurring episodes of mania and depression that can last from one day to months. Bipolar causes dramatic shifts in mood and energy and can affect work or school productivity and performance.

The Mayo Clinic describes four types of bipolar:

  1. Bipolar I: characterized by having at least one manic episode preceded or followed by hypomanic or major depressive episodes. Sometimes, mania can trigger psychosis.
  2. Bipolar II: classified by a series of depressive and hypomanic episodes
  3. Cyclothymic disorder: periods of hypomanic and depressive symptoms lasting at least two years
  4. Unspecified bipolar disorder: bipolar disorder symptoms that do not fit into the other bipolar categories

During manic episodes of bipolar, a person can feel energized and require less sleep. A manic episode can cause a person to lose their appetite, talk fast about many different things, and engage in risky behavior. Depressive episodes can cause a person to feel down and empty. They can also disrupt sleep patterns, lead to poor concentration, and cause a person to lose interest in activities. Many people who suffer from bipolar have other mental health disorders, such as anxiety disorder, substance use disorder (SUD), eating disorder, or ADHD.  

Major depressive disorder is a common and severe mental health disorder that negatively affects many parts of a person’s life. Depression causes intense and debilitating feelings of sadness with a loss of interest in daily activities. Many people who suffer from major depressive disorder also struggle with other mental health disorders. According to the American Psychiatric Association, depression is among the most treatable mental illnesses. On average, 80-90% of people with depression respond well to treatment, and almost all patients gain some relief from the symptoms. The most common co-occurring mental illness with major depressive disorder is an anxiety disorder. Approximately five to nine percent of the general adult population has an anxiety and depression diagnosis.

Healthy Ways to Cope With Mental Illness

Although some mental illnesses can disrupt many aspects of your life, there are healthy ways to cope with symptoms. Exercise is a natural way to relieve stress and anxiety, improve self-esteem, and enhance well-being through the release of endorphins. Maintaining a healthy diet will also help improve overall health. Regular exercise and healthy eating can help o regulate sleep patterns, lower cholesterol, and increase brain function.

While taking care of your physical body is essential, it is also crucial to take care of your spirit. Take time to engage in self-care activities, such as reading, journaling, gardening, and more. By taking care of yourself, you aim to replenish your soul and care for yourself on a deeper level. Taking the time to connect to yourself can also include meditation and yoga. 

It is also essential to reach out for help when you need it. Keeping in contact with a healthy support system of family and friends can help individuals share their feelings with people they trust. Sometimes, letting out our emotions gives us some relief. You should also not be afraid to seek professional help if you need it. Treating comorbid mental health disorders can be challenging, and a medical professional can help you find the best treatment plan that fits your needs.

 

Many people suffer from more than one mental illness at once. Multiple diagnoses are treatable, and Achieve Concierge offers a comprehensive health plan that we can tailor to fit your needs. We work with our patients to develop the best strategy to manage mental health symptoms. Our panel of expert clinicians is prepared to create the best treatment path just for you. Our members experience a continuum of care that addresses healing for the mind, body, and spirit. Achieve Concierge offers mental health services for children and adults to ease anxiety, depression, and other mental health disorders. We take your mental health very seriously, so we offer same-day, in-person appointments so you can get help quickly and effectively. We can also provide appointments via telemedicine. We want to help you by determining the best course of action to restore your overall health. Discover more about our treatment options and call Achieve Concierge today at (858) 221-0344.

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Preparing for the Anniversary of a Traumatic Event

People who have survived trauma may feel like they relive the feelings of extreme sadness, depression, and anxiety on the anniversary of the traumatic event. The anniversary of a traumatic event can invoke intense feelings and emotions associated with the trauma. Some people even struggle with symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), which can be overwhelming and take control of physical, mental, and spiritual health.

Everyone reacts and heals differently to trauma. Sometimes, a psychological reaction to different senses can occur that reminds a person of the trauma, such as a particular sound, smell, or season. Reliving the feelings is normal and a natural reaction to the healing process, but sometimes the intensity of the emotions can make it difficult for a person to function at work, school, or home.

What Can Happen?

Anniversary dates of traumatic events can reactivate thoughts and feelings from the actual event, and survivors may experience anxiety and depression. Around the anniversary of a traumatic event, people are likely to remember events clearly, and many will feel emotions more intensely than usual. Reliving the sadness is a very natural part of the healing process. However, there is no one right way to heal. Try not to compare your reactions to those of others. Each person is different, and each individual will find their own way of coping with the memories.

Anniversary Reactions

Anniversary reactions can occur on the anniversary of the date the traumatic event happened – the date itself triggers the memory. For example, the anniversary of the September 11, 2001 attacks were labeled with the date on which they occurred (9/11), linking the date directly to the traumatic event. A traumatic memory can hold onto the information that causes one to be afraid of certain people, places, or things associated with the traumatic event.

People who have PTSD sometimes have flashbacks of the events repeatedly. They may avoid certain places or people and can be easily startled and have angry outbursts. According to the U.S. National Library of Medicine, NIH, people with PTSD may have an increased risk of coronary heart disease and possibly thromboembolic stroke.

A traumatic event’s anniversary can trigger a distressing memory that produces intense feelings, emotions, physiological reactions, negative thoughts about the world, and protective coping responses. Traumatic memories contain specific information about an event’s seriousness to help people seek safety and protect themselves from similar harm. The memory provides information about what the person should be afraid of, how they should perceive such situations, how to feel in that situation, and what to think.

Mental health is significant to study in the context of disasters – often in such events as 9/11, loved ones are lost suddenly, horrifically, and unexpectedly. Some of the reactions those affected may experience as the anniversary date nears include difficulty concentrating, loss of appetite, irritable outbursts, nightmares, difficulty falling or staying asleep, and feelings of detachment from others.

Coping With the Anniversary of a Traumatic Event

The anniversary of a traumatic event or loss can be a time of reflection and can be seen as an opportunity for a person to look back and recognize how far they have come. It can be a time to recognize and appreciate family, friends, and loved ones who supported them throughout the healing process. You may want to consider the following to help you cope with the anniversary of a traumatic event:

  • Prepare for the anniversary in advance. Make plans for healthy distractions.
  • Memorialize the loss of a loved one. When appropriate, make a specific plan related to your loss or traumatic event. 
  • Remind yourself the feelings are temporary. The distressing symptoms of the anniversary should disperse over time.
  • Understand symptoms can appear on other dates at any time. Mental health conditions can worsen on holidays, during winter months, and even birthdays.
  • Find support and ask for help. Do not be ashamed to ask for help and seek treatment, even many years after the traumatic event or loss.

Mental Health Treatment is Available

Everyone copes with tragedy and trauma differently. While some thoughts, emotions, and feelings can be very troubling, it helps to know these reactions are expected after a traumatic event. Sometimes, people have these strong feelings for weeks or months later. Working through trauma takes time and requires physical, emotional, and spiritual healing.

At Achieve Concierge, we take a holistic approach to total wellness. We offer same-day access to mental health services so you can collaborate with our medical clinicians to explore treatment options for mental health disorder symptoms without delay. We monitor your progress in our mental health treatment program and ensure you can safely manage your mental health symptoms. We work with you to develop the best treatment plan based on your unique needs to deliver the best results.

 

Preparing for a traumatic event’s anniversary can help you cope with strong feelings and emotions associated with the trauma or loss. With Achieve Concierge’s same-day mental health services, individuals can get instant help to find ways to manage their mental health symptoms. We want to help you find ways to cope with your symptoms, and our team of dedicated clinicians is prepared to develop the best treatment plan for you. Each person who suffers from mental health symptoms responds differently to treatment. At Achieve Concierge, we offer youth and adult mental health services to help ease symptoms of anxiety, depression, and other mental health disorders. Appointments with our providers can be made in-person or via telemedicine. We take a holistic approach to treatment and want to help by determining the best course of action to treat your mental health disorder. To discover more about our services and treatment plans, call Achieve Concierge today at (858) 221-0344.

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Treatment for PTSD as a First Responder

“We can all help prevent suicide. The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline provides 24/7, free and confidential support for people in distress, prevention, crisis resources for you or your loved ones, and best practices for professionals. Call 1-800-273-8255.”

First responders are at high risk of developing post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) due to their profession’s nature. They put themselves in harm’s way to protect us and provide emergency care, even in dangerous and life-threatening situations. However, treatment is available for first responders who suffer from PTSD and other mental health conditions.

What is PTSD?

PTSD is a severe mental health condition that affects a person’s wellbeing and relationships with loved ones. Many people who have PTSD will go through temporary feelings of discomfort that can get better with time and self-care. Others may experience symptoms of PTSD for months or even years.

PTSD can interfere with a person’s daily activities and cause sleep disturbances, nightmares, and flashbacks. If left untreated, PTSD can lead to substance use, addiction, or suicide. Mental health conditions and addiction can affect anyone, including first responders who are committed to helping others. The term “first responder” refers to the police, firefighters, search and rescue personnel, military, mental health workers, emergency dispatchers, and emergency and paramedical teams.

Ending the Shame Surrounding Mental Health

Shame and stigma often surround mental health within professions that symbolize bravery and toughness. A stigma is a false perception and negative attitude against someone based on a characteristic, such as mental illness, health condition, or disability. Unfortunately, many people in these professions do not seek help due to the stigma surrounding mental health.

First responders often mask their mental anguish in humor. According to the Ruderman Family Foundation, a philanthropic organization that advocates for and advances the inclusion of people with disabilities throughout our society, first responders are at higher risk of dying by suicide than in the line of duty. “In 2017, there were at least 103 firefighter suicides and 140 police officer suicides. In contrast, 93 firefighters and 129 police officers died in the line of duty.”

Everyday Stressors For First Responders

Our first responders in the police, fire, EMS, and military professions need to be ready for anything, at any time. They live with a fear that something will happen that they cannot control. The weight of the responsibility they carry can be paralyzing and debilitating. Fear sometimes needs to be buried deep within for first responders to perform their job.

The skills they have to do their job effectively need to be nurtured and continuously challenged. When a skill is learned, it needs to be re-learned at every available moment to ensure competence. There is always something new to perfect. “The training is the foundation that everything else depends upon. Having the skills to perform embedded in you through repetition helps when the real deal comes your way.” (Michael Morse, Fire Rescue 1, 2015). 

First responders mentally prepare themselves to face death, disfigurement, and disease while at work and off duty. It becomes the “norm” to them, and it eats away at their humanity and compassion. They have erratic sleep schedules and miss important events and holidays with loved ones. The feeling of impending doom and despair will always be with them, consciously or subconsciously.

Trauma-Related Substance Use

People who experience PTSD or other mental health conditions may turn to drugs or alcohol as a way to self-medicate, which can result in destructive behavior, disruption with job performance, trouble with loved ones, severe health complications, and death. Individuals who experience trauma may use drugs or alcohol to:

  • Fall asleep due to disruptive sleep patterns caused by PTSD
  • Avoid traumatic memories or flashbacks
  • Forget about problems
  • Deal with mood disturbances caused by PTSD
  • Numb emotions

Substance use disorder and PTSD often co-occur and can be treated as a dual diagnosis. Those who have PTSD might have flashbacks and repeatedly relive the event. They may avoid certain places or people and can be easily startled and have angry outbursts.

Alcohol is one of the most commonly used substances in individuals who develop PTSD due to its central nervous system depressant effects, availability, and acceptance across every social level. Developing PTSD is a risk factor for developing a substance use disorder or addiction. Having a pre-existing substance use problem is a risk factor for the development of PTSD.

Mental health is critical to study in the context of disasters because often in tragic events, loved ones are lost suddenly, horrifically, and unexpectedly.

Treatment For PTSD

It can be challenging to ask for help, but asking for help is not a sign of weakness. Anyone can develop symptoms of PTSD due to traumatic events. Do not let the stigma surrounding PTSD interfere with getting the help you desperately need. If you or a loved one has PTSD or other mental health conditions, make the life-saving decision to get help now.

 

Many first responders may suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). As they put their lives on the line and witness horrifying scenes, they can become traumatized. Suffering from the symptoms of trauma can lead to unhealthy coping mechanisms, such as substance use. As first responders wish to numb their emotions, forget their memories, or cure sleep disturbances caused by PTSD, they use more and more substances, creating the possibility of developing substance use disorder. First responders are more likely to die by suicide than in the line of duty to the multitude of adverse effects of PTSD. Although PTSD is a debilitating mental health disorder, it can be managed with the right medication and psychotherapy. Sometimes, the stigma of psychiatric disorders prevents people from getting the help they desperately need. At Achieve Concierge, we offer in-person appointments and even at-home services if you are more comfortable at home. Take the first step to self-care. Get help today and call (858) 221-0344.

Signs of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder in Breast Cancer Patients

October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month. Often, October is referred to as Pinktober because of the pink merchandise and breast cancer themed fundraisers. Many organizations that promote research are to raise awareness and reduce the number of women diagnosed each year. There are walks, runs, and fashion shows that raise money for research. Companies can also profit from the sale of merchandise with strategically placed pink ribbons.

The pink ribbons, pink clothing, make-up, or jewelry sold during October can often gloss over a real disease. The fundraisers meant to fund research can pay salaries instead of research. People can lose focus on what is essential: treating breast cancer patients and survivors. Due to all of this, many breast cancer survivors and patients can experience a form of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD).

Definition of PTSD

The American Psychiatric Association defines PTSD as

“a psychiatric disorder that may occur in people who have experienced or witnessed a traumatic event such as a natural disaster, a serious accident, a terrorist act, war/combat, or rape or who have been threatened with death, sexual violence or serious injury.”

Cancer patients can struggle with intense, troubling thoughts and emotions regarding their cancer treatment. The onslaught of pink during October can lead to a re-emergence of ominous and heightened feelings such as depression or anger. Understanding that companies are profiting from their pain can cause cancer patients and survivors to be very resentful. 

A Survivor’s Story

Melissa

Melissa talks with other women in group therapy about her PTSD. She wants others to know PTSD is real, and therapy or group sessions helped her learn how to cope.

“Every year, October would roll around, and the world turned pink. Every time I see a pink ribbon on a piece of merchandise, I remember how brutal chemotherapy, radiation, and surgery is to a body. I wasn’t smiling, thin, able to walk or run like the media shows. Pain, nausea, and exhaustion hobbled me. My hair fell out; wigs were hot and uncomfortable while scarves and hats drew attention. My mastectomy was another story. Having parts of your body removed affected my mental well-being. 

I resented the merchandise that profited from breast cancer. Companies throw a pink ribbon on something and reap people’s benefits, thinking they are helping fund research. For some organizations, fundraisers are maddening because the money raised doesn’t go to research; it pays salaries. My cancer is not for sale. My experience is not a pretty pink ribbon and a smiling face. My cancer is harrowing, pain-filled, and the scars last forever.

October is a month I want to avoid because it brings up too many excruciating memories. Beginning in September, I would avoid people and places. I was acting out – my anger was uncontrollable; my fear of cancer coming back was overwhelming. I thought about killing myself. I blamed myself for having cancer. Throughout the year, seeing a pink ribbon throws me back to treatment.

I remember the pain. I knew I couldn’t cope with my thoughts and feelings alone anymore. My local treatment center held groups for survivors and patients. There was a group for breast cancer patients and survivors. At first, group sessions were too much for me. I couldn’t go to stores, visit with friends or family because I was angry and overwhelmed. Once I decided to begin therapy, I knew in-home treatment would be perfect. My therapist is working with my goal to cope with October. I feel more robust; I kept my appointments during quarantine using telemedicine. The way to keep going is to keep going to therapy.”

Signs and Symptoms of PTSD

Post-traumatic stress disorder presents itself in several different ways. A diagnosis of PTSD includes significant disturbance or complications of daily living. Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder is exhibited by these symptoms or symptoms similar to those listed below for one or more months.

Intrusive thoughts or dreams are a symptom of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Often, the ideas are unexpected, undesirable, and troublesome. Other forms of invasive thoughts include

  • Disquieting dreams or nightmares
  • Increased emotional, physical, or mental distress to an object, person, or place that reminds a person of the traumatic event. There are times invasive thoughts feel real or have lingering effects on a person’s daily life.
  • Unpleasant events or situations can lead people to avoid places, people, situations, or activities that remind them of the traumatic event. The urge to stay home to avoid any uncomfortable situation can be treated if a person joins a support group or schedules an individual therapy appointment.
  • Blocking out or repressing negative thoughts and feelings, causing negative thoughts or assumptions about others. 
  • The risk of survivors’ guilt, complicated grief, low self-esteem, anger, shame, self-doubt, depression, or anxiety.
  • A feeling of detachment or decreased interest in activities that were once enjoyed.
  • Responses to situations or people such as irritability, eruptions of anger, fear, or anxiety are, at times, debilitating. An increased focus on surroundings, others, or situations is manifested through behaviors associated with fear and anxiety.
  • Paranoia or altered convictions about people or places.

Breast cancer survivors can experience post-traumatic stress disorder during the month of October because of the increased attention to breast cancer. The ads, shows, merchandise, and fundraisers remind them of a scary, painful, or fear-inducing event in their lives. Cancer takes away a person’s control, strips them of their perception of health, and leaves physical, emotional, and spiritual scars.

 

Patients and survivors of breast cancer can experience deep, distressing feelings during and after their treatment. Persistent thoughts of guilt, shame, fear, anger, and depression can create obstacles to their everyday activities. Feeling intense emotions when you see a pink ribbon, ads, or merchandise related to breast cancer doesn’t mean something is wrong with you, and PTSD isn’t something you have to hide. Achieve Concierge welcomes the opportunity to help you cope with PTSD. We offer group and individual sessions in-office, via TeleHealth, and in-home sessions. Please call us today at (858) 221-0344 to schedule an appointment. 

Coping Mechanisms for PTSD

Coping Mechanisms for PTSD

“Holding yourself accountable for someone else hurting you, only continues the hurting long after the hurting is done.”
-Anonymous

There is a common thread that plagues victims of traumatic events: self-blame. So what causes self-blame, and why is it so common for individuals with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) to experience this coping mechanism? The belief that we had control or we could have had power is the explanation that we give ourselves. We think we can prevent future traumas from happening if only we try harder next time.

Self-blame is a way that one may express their shame after a traumatic event has occurred. At times, when the victim of abuse reports the incident, they may feel a sense of self-blame for “ruining” the other person’s life or for how it affects their friends and family. But self-blame doesn’t have to be a part of your life — there are plenty of self-help resources that you can use instead to cope with a PTSD diagnosis.

Increasing Positive Lifestyle Choices

Instead of choosing to eat that donut for breakfast or fast-food burger for lunch, try opting for something healthier such as a salad or fruit. When you notice your PTSD symptoms worsening, take some time to go for a walk around the block — this is a great way to trick your brain into thinking you’re abiding by its flight-or-fight method of protection.

You can also try journaling all of the ways you are feeling throughout the day. Jot down when your mood shifts, when you’re feeling symptoms, when good things happen, and when not-so-good things happen. Journaling is an excellent, healthy emotional release that allows you to track your mood patterns and habits.

Joining a Support Group

Scientific studies have proven that the response to seeking help for those diagnosed with PTSD mirrors those diagnosed with anxiety. Finding a group of people online or in your community with similar experiences and success stories could be an excellent way for you to gain positive feedback, make new friends, and learn new tools to use when you have episodes of PTSD. Find a safe space to talk about the things that you want to discuss and receive input in a non-judgmental and supportive environment.

Mindfulness and Breathing

Practice your ability to enjoy all that you have in the present moment. Acknowledge the weather, take in the environment that surrounds you, focus on your existence, and then focus on your breathing. Try box breathing — breathe in for 3 seconds, hold it for 3 seconds, breathe out for 3 seconds, wait for 3 seconds, and repeat until your PTSD or panic episode is over. Focusing on your ability to control yourself and your thoughts can ground you in times of personal unrest. Being able to retreat to this grounded mindset can help even further.

Regaining the Present Moment

After a nightmare that takes you back to the event, it might be alarming when you realize that it was only a dream. The Department of Veteran Affairs recommends getting out of bed, walking around, grabbing a glass of water, noticing your surroundings, and bringing yourself back to the present moment. Try calling a friend if you can, or try a soothing activity such as listening to calming music.

Avoid tobacco, alcohol, and caffeine when you wake up from a nightmare as they each make it difficult to fall back asleep. Recovery is an ongoing, daily process that cannot be fixed overnight. Healing from the trauma you experienced does not mean that you have forgotten the trauma. In moments when your PTSD bombards you, remind yourself that it is pure memory, and you are not currently in that situation.

The emotions that you experience are natural responses to trauma. So try to partake in activities that bring you joy. This could mean a daily run, a group that meets for breakfast once a week, or a picnic in the park. You must find coping mechanisms that work for you and implement them into your everyday routine.

Don’t be discouraged if specific coping mechanisms don’t work for you. Be aware that there will be some activities you strongly dislike — but this should not stop you from finding things that work for you and give you positive tools to use when your PTSD comes around.

If you or someone you love suffers from PTSD, Achieve Concierge can help. Our expert clinicians use a combination of medication and psychotherapy to relieve PTSD symptoms and teach patients how to cope with these feelings and memories. Our goal is to treat the entire person, body, mind, and spirit to deliver long-term results. To learn more, call us today at (858) 221-0344.