When a potentially dangerous or deadly event occurs – a near-death experience, an automobile accident, a workplace incident – it’s natural and normal to go through a period of anxiety in response.
However, for some people, the emotional effects of acute stress and trauma do not fade with time. Instead, stress levels remain high, and as months and years pass, this consistently high level of anxiety takes a toll. When this occurs, patients may be diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), a mental health condition that requires specialized treatment and intervention.
A history of physical or sexual trauma – particularly when recurrent – can result in PTSD. Individuals who are employed within high-risk occupational settings, such as first responders (fire, police, paramedics) are also at risk to develop operational stress injuries.
Intensive treatment that involves a range of evidence-based cognitive and behavioural therapies, incorporation of regular exercise, along with medication treatment (if appropriate) can help patients to learn how to better manage symptoms and improve the overall quality of their lives. Individuals with PTSD also benefit from imaginal and in vivo exposure therapy (as appropriate, depending on history of trauma), which provides patients with an opportunity to de-sensitize themselves to situations or triggers that induce PTSD symptoms, in a safe and supportive environment. Relaxation, breathing and mindfulness are also tremendously beneficial in effectively treating PTSD.