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Senior Man Sitting Caressing His Hands

What You Need to Know about PTSD

Wherever there are people there is the potential to suffer trauma. You may witness it, be a victim of it, or have a family member experience it. The pandemic has been traumatic for millions of people who have gotten sick, lost jobs, and lost loved ones.

One of the possible results is post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). It is a mental health disorder triggered most often by either witnessing or experiencing a terrifying event.

It is often associated with combat veterans. But you don’t have to be a soldier, sailor, or Marine to suffer from PTSD.

By the Numbers

The trauma that can lead to PTSD is not as rare as you might imagine. Neither is PTSD. About 60% of men and 50% of women will experience at least one trauma in their lifetime.

Women are more likely to experience child sexual abuse while growing up, or sexual assault. Men are more likely to experience assaults, combat, accidents, or to witness death or injury according to the National Center for PTSD.

In the United States:
 

  • 6% of the population will have PTSD at some point
  • 12 million adults have PTSD during any given year
  • 8% of women develop PTSD some time in their lives
  • 4% of men develop PTSD at some time

When It Happens

Not everyone who has PTSD has suffered a dangerous event, or even witnessed one. Suddenly losing a loved one can have a similar effect. Symptoms usually happen within three months of the triggering event and don’t last more than a month.

If they last longer than a month and are severe enough to interfere with work or relationships, it could be a sign of post-traumatic stress disorder. It is important to see a psychiatrist or psychologist if you think you are suffering from PTSD.

Woman By the Window Thinking

Symptoms

There are typically four types of symptoms:

1. Intrusive memories — This could include unwanted memories of the event, flashbacks, nightmares, severe emotional distress, or physical reactions to something that reminds you of the event.

2. Avoidance — This could include avoiding people, places, or activities that remind you of the event, or not talking or even thinking about the event.

3. Negative changes in mood and thinking — This includes feelings of hopelessness, memory problems, feelings of detachment, lack of interest in favorite activities, emotional numbness, negative thoughts about yourself, the world, or others, difficult experiencing positive emotions.

4. Changes in emotional and physical reactions — Also called arousal symptoms, this could include guilt or shame, being easily startled or frightened, trouble sleeping, trouble concentrating, angry outbursts, aggressive behavior, self-destructive behavior, constantly on guard for danger.

Children six years old and younger may re-enact the traumatic event or parts of it through play. They may also have frightening dreams that could include aspects of the event.

Man Talks to Doctor About How He is Feeling

What to Do

Some people may not experience PTSD for years while others experience it right away. Symptoms may be stronger when you’re generally stressed or reminded of what happened either by a sound, smell, location, or situation.

Reach out to a mental health professional, loved one, or close friend if you have suicidal thoughts or are thinking of harming yourself. You can also call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK and speak with a trained counselor.

AltaMed Is Here to Help

AltaMed’s experienced Behavioral Health team is staffed with licensed clinical social workers who speak English and Spanish and are trained to help you cope with life’s stressors. Short-term therapy is available, and we can connect members with mental health services if long-term therapy or other support is needed. If you or a loved one have experienced trauma and need support, there are resources available to you. Call us at (855) 425-1777 to get started.

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Stressed Man

Managing Stress Before It Becomes Anxiety

It feels like stress has been a frequent companion for the last two years. The pandemic has forced many of us to feel lonely and isolated. We may have lost loved ones or seen friends and relatives spend time in the hospital. Jobs have been lost and financial worries seem constant.

It’s normal, however. Stress is the body’s response to the unknown. Learning how to handle that stress can make you resilient. 

Woman Having Stress Problems

The Body and Stress

Your body releases hormones whenever you’re stressed. It is part of the fight-or-flight response that has developed over millions of years. You become more alert, your muscles get tense, and your pulse increases. The stress is meant to help you handle that situation.

Staying stressed, even after that stressful situation has passed, can lead to chronic stress which can lead to health problems like:
 

  • High blood pressure
  • Heart disease
  • Diabetes
  • Obesity
  • Menstrual problems
  • Anxiety

Anxiety happens when the stress takes over. You are in a constant state of worry. Symptoms include:
 

  • Changes in appetite, energy, and motivation
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Difficulty sleeping
  • Feeling angry, frustrated, sad, scared, or worried
  • Headaches, body aches, stomach problems, or rashes
  • Nightmares
  • Use of alcohol, drugs, or tobacco
  • Worsening physical or mental health
Mom and Daughter Looking the Lake

4 A’s of Stress Management

It’s important to learn productive ways to deal with stress because we deal with it nearly every day. Sometimes it’s good, like a wedding, birthday, or a new job. Sometimes it’s difficult, like a flat tire, an illness, or a pandemic. There are ways to get your body back into balance, so you’re not overwhelmed by stress.

The Mayo Clinic recommends four A’s to cope with stress: avoid, alter, accept, and adapt
 

  • Avoid — The news can be incredibly stressful so, avoid it. Being informed is important, but not at the expense of your health. Don’t engage with people who bother you. Learn to say “no.” If you have a “to-do” list, prioritize items on that list and forget the ones you can’t get to that day.
  • Alter — It may be worth having a talk with that bothersome person if they can’t be avoided. Communicate your feelings with “I” statements about how you feel. Tell people there are limits to your time and stick to those. Use your time more efficiently.
  • Accept — It can help to talk with a sympathetic friend. It might be time to forgive someone, which can be hard. Practice positivity. Don’t get down on yourself for mistakes. Remind yourself that mistakes happen to everyone. Learn and move on.
  • Adapt — Shift your thinking. You may want things to be “perfect.” That’s not necessary. Learn to stop gloomy thoughts. Look at situations from a different viewpoint. Find the positivity in each situation. Try to come up with at least three good things that happened each day. This will lead you to start looking for the good in your life as you look for different things to be thankful for.

Regular exercise, having a hobby, staying connected with friends, eating a healthy diet, and meditating are all ways that can help you keep the stress in check.

Get Help When You Need It

If stress is keeping you from enjoying life, it might be time to seek professional assistance. Start by talking with your primary care doctor. They may have some tips or advice for you, and they can also refer you to AltaMed Behavioral Health Services.

If you’re not sure if stress is your problem or if you should see a doctor, you can call AltaMed Behavioral Health Services directly at 855- 425-1777. We can help you find answers so you can get the care that’s right for you. Take a deep breath…together, we’ve got this.

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Woman Meditation

Meditate Your Way to Less Stress

Americans are overwhelmed by stress. The American Psychological Association has called it a “national mental health crisis.”

The COVID-19 pandemic has disrupted work, education, relationships, health care, and the economy.

The American Institute of Stress found that one third of people report feeling extreme stress; 77% experience stress that affects their physical health; 73% have stress that affects their mental health; and 48% of people can’t sleep because of stress.

Meditation is a free and extremely effective way to get your stress in check and get yourself on a path to better physical and mental health.

Inside Blog Meditation

Meditation Basics

Meditation has been around for thousands of years. It was originally seen as a way to gain a deeper understanding of the spiritual forces in people’s lives. Today, it’s most often used to reduce stress and relax.

Meditation can help people focus their thoughts to gain perspective on what may be causing them stress. Identifying stressors can then lead to reducing the affect those stressors have on you.

The emotional benefits of meditation can include:
 

  • Building stress-management skills
  • Fewer negative emotions
  • Focusing on the present
  • Getting perspective on stressful situations
  • Increased creativity
  • Increased patience
  • Increased self-awareness
Meditating Under a Tree

Types of Meditation

The goal of meditation is to help you relax. It can be as simple as sitting in a quiet place and listening to your breath. Other forms can be a little more involved. Here are some examples:
 

  • Guided meditation Use your imagination to see places or situations that are relaxing. Try to involve as many senses as you can. There are apps that can help with this form of meditation.
  • Mantra meditation Repeat, in your mind, a calming word or thought to help you focus.
  • Mindfulness Focus on things that keep you in the moment, like your breath. Try to let stray thoughts pass through you.
  • Qi gong Pronounced CHEE-gung, this form of traditional Chinese medicine combines breathing exercises with movement, meditation, and relaxation. Talk to your doctor before doing any meditation that involves movement.
  • Tai chi This is a Chinese martial art that combines slow, graceful movement with deep breathing.

Common Elements of Meditation

Which each form of meditation has different features, there are some basic elements to each type.
 

  • A quiet setting
  • A comfortable position
  • Focused attention
  • Relaxed breathing
  • An open attitude
Grass Meditation

Health Benefits of Meditation

There has been extensive research into the health benefits of meditation. It has been shown to help people dealing with a number of different issues including anxiety, depression, and problems sleeping.

According to the National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health, here are some health-related topics that include studies on the benefits of meditation.

  1. For cancer patients — The Society for Integrative Oncology recommends meditation as one way to help reduce the anxiety and stress for people suffering from cancer symptoms and treatment side effects.
  2. Blood pressure — The American Heart Association supports using meditation as a complement to standard treatment to lower blood pressure.
  3. Menopause — Yoga, tai chi, and other meditation techniques have been shown to reduce the frequency of hot flashes, stress, muscle and joint pain, sleep disturbances, and mood changes.
  4. Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) — There have been literature reviews that show meditation training helped reduce the effects of pain IBS patients deal with.

Add Meditation to Your Health Regimen

Meditation can be another part of your routine to stay healthy. Add it to your activities, just like you would exercise or eating right. AltaMed can support you in those efforts. We’re here to meet the health needs of you and your entire family — both inside and out.

AltaMed Behavioral Health Services is also there to help you find healthy ways to manage the stress that surrounds us. Call us at (855) 425-1777.

What You Need to Know about PTSD