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Ameliorating post traumatic stress disorder

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‘Once your mindset changes, everything on the outside will change along it’
-Steve Maraboli

Musa’s political ambition to become a senator of the Federal Republic of Nigeria suffered a huge loss during this year’s February 23rd Presidential and Senatorial elections. Meanwhile, he invested his entire business capital, as well as a huge loan he obtained from the bank into the political project. Spiff lost his left arm during one of the battles his troop engaged with Boko Haram in the North East of Nigeria. Juliet was about to obtain her permanent resident documents in UK when she was arrested and deported.These sad and sorrowful life events are typical tipping points, which orchestrate the incidence or exacerbation of post-traumatic stress disorders.

It is challenging and distressing that in some occasions the event that triggered off the PTSD is beyond the victim’s control. For instance, a soldier must go to war and cannot be in control of the weapons of mass destruction employed by the enemy. Some accident victims, in spite of their skillful and careful driving, end up brutalized by other drivers and vehicles.

Post-traumatic Stress Disorder reminds us that life is a product of vicissitudes and vagaries.
During this earthly journey, human beings may not escape the trials and troubles, tests and tornadoes of life. The victorious pathway is to prepare one’s mind to overcome and conquer every challenge life offers. This is a major reason I once declared that attitude, more than aptitude, determines people’s altitude. In other words, attitude more than any investment determines people’s level of success in life. Such an understanding significantly introduces us to the issue of developing effective strategy for dealing with PTSD.

The two major approaches used to handle PTSD are Medical (Chemotherapy) and Psychotherapy. With reference to the former, the use of selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors has been recommended for treatment of clinical depression and sometimes the treatment of serious cases of anxiety disorders.

The target of Psychotherapy in PTSD is to help the victim to learn coping skills as well as to adjust to new challenges that arise as a result of the disorder. Some of the recommended psychotherapeutic strategies for handling PTSD include, Group, Family and Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR) therapies. Very remarkable excellent results of psychological treatment of PTSD have been recorded with the use of Cognitive Behaviour and Psychodynamic therapies. Of course, one cannot describe the technicalities of these psychotherapeutic models here. I proceed by focusing on some basic psychological principles of handling PTSD.

A rule of the thumb principle in all health issues is that of early detection and reports of symptoms. The incubation period of PTSD is variously given to last between a month and a few years and the consequences will be less threatening and devastating if detected, reported and handled immediately. Consequently, family members and friends can play significant roles in helping the victim to seek early professional help.

Victims of PTSD can benefit from engagement in quality rest. By this arrangement, the pressure of work is removed from the victim. However, PTSD patients shouldn’t be left alone. They should be guided and guarded by adults. This is to forestall any form of the former engaging in personal harmful activities. Depending on the degree of damage to one’s health and personality, the patient may benefit from some form of productive activity. Also, such activity should fit into the patient’s regimen.

Fundamentally, involvement in physical exercise will help to distract the patient from concentrating on the negative memories, which normally characterize PTSD. As the patient engages in physical exercise, he/she experiences release of tensions, anxieties and fears. This cathartic role of physical exercise promotes therapeutic process.

A change of environment can add value to the therapy. For many patients of PTSD, cues, signs and scenes, which remind them of the onslaught of the traumatic events may exacerbate the disorder. Therefore, removing them from such negative familiar scenes may contribute positively to the therapeutic regimen. Coming back to confront such negative stimulating environments may be better when the patient is stronger and healthier than when he/she is at his/her weakest or lowest point of health.

We are all the products of our peculiar mindsets. A positive and possibility mindset is more predisposed to benefit from any form of therapy than a negative or pessimistic one. Napoleon Hill, the author of the best seller, ‘Think and Grow Rich’ is noted to have made this useful statement about the mind that ‘there are no limitations to the mind except those we acknowledge. Both poverty and riches are the offspring of thought.’ As a corollary, health and sickness are the off springs of the human mind. The PTSD patient should be ready to adjust his/her mind to overcome the negative vicissitudes of life.

One of the effective strategies to handle PTSD is to develop a positive philosophy about suffering, pain, injustice and all the problems of life. In the words of Reinhold Niebuhr (1892-1971), the American Theologian, I recall his popular Serenity Prayer which says;

‘God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change.
Courage to change the things I can and wisdom to know the difference’
One develops to a stage in life when virtues like gratitude, forgiveness, kindness, hope and unconditional love become inevitable rules to cherish.

One focuses and targets to grow beyond the lower bestial forms of humanity and through dogged fortitude, temperance and ethereal revelation, tramples upon the harsh realities of this life. To this paradigm shift of mental and emotional development, I urge you to engage in. We can achieve the best therapeutic results by preparing our minds to accommodate both the worst and best in this journey. The worst cannot mar, neither can the best make us. Each of us possesses the innate potential to sink and soar. In agreement with the opening quote of Steve Maraboli, the PSTD patient can be willing to have a positive change of mind about the trauma and troubles. The result would be a sure and steady movement toward obtaining a sound mind as well as wholesome healing of the entire personality. If the symptoms persist, consult a psychologist and psychiatrist.
Dr. Amaraegbu, a clinical psychologist, can be contacted at drpassy@yahoo.com

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