What is PTSD and how to deal with it? Top 7 questions for psychologists

For almost nine months, we have been living under constant stress. And the abbreviation PTSD appears in the conversations of ordinary people more and more often. But not all stress causes PTSD. So what is this disorder, how to identify it, and what to do about it? Let us try to understand it and answer questions with Susanna Angelova of the psychological project "Unbreakable Mom" of the Masha Foundation.

PTSD is a complex post-traumatic stress disorder that can be caused by any number of traumatic events.


– It can hide in the subconscious for years and be provoked by even the slightest mention of the events that caused it – says psychologist Susanna Angelova. – PTSD wreaks havoc on the mind and emotions and requires comprehensive therapy.


Question #1

How do you know if you have PTSD?

The presence of PTSD or ASR (acute stress reaction) is determined by a doctor. If a person has experienced life-threatening events and after some time they began to notice changes in their well-being, their reactions to the environment, and any changes in their emotional interaction with the world and in their thoughts, it is recommended to contact a mental health specialist.


Question #2

Why can PTSD develop even years after the stress that caused it?

Some traumas, such as war events, are so devastating and horrific that memories of them lurk like a shadow in the brain. When our mind lacks energy resources, an event can be blocked in a person’s active memory. This type of repressed memory can later manifest itself in uncontrollable re-experiencing. At a certain period, when life is already settling down, our consciousness seems to take a “can” from the shelf and open it to integrate the important experience.

Sometimes PTSD catches up according to the principle of cumulative effect. The last drop overflows and breaks the dam.


Question #3

What is it like to live with PTSD?

Our psyche is flexible and tuned to development, including post-traumatic. If you pay attention to yourself and find reserves for recovery, then over some time, post-stress mental disorders will disappear.


PTSD has a wave-like course. In most cases, people recover, but sometimes, after difficult life experiences, the symptoms of PTSD are present for a long time. If a person does not receive professional help and support from loved ones, the syndrome can transform into a chronic personality change.


Question #4

Is PTSD treatable?

Living with PTSD is difficult for anyone. To overcome it, it is essential to treat the problem scientifically, and carefully. To understand that experiencing dangerous events changes the functioning of our brain and the entire nervous system, even at the level of physiology. Therefore, you need to give yourself and others time. It is advisable to use all available resources, including medical treatment.


Overcoming PTSD has three main goals:

  • Improving symptoms.
  • Learning to cope with them.
  • Restoring your confidence and self-esteem.


When a person has PTSD, they may think that life will never get back to normal. But PTSD can be cured. Short- and long-term psychotherapy and medication can work very well. Often both treatments are more effective together.


Question #5

How to help yourself?

I should repeat it once again: if you have noticed symptoms of PTSD in yourself or someone close to you, you should contact a mental health specialist! But at the same time, you can work with the disorder yourself by following the following tips.

  • Make a daily routine and stick to it. You may be tempted to isolate yourself and avoid triggers, but avoiding life only makes your symptoms worse.
  • It is important to regain self-confidence. Say to yourself: “I am not a victim of circumstances, I overcome difficult trials. I provide myself with decent conditions for recovery.”
  • Self-care and small joys will give you a break from the hopelessness you may feel from time to time, and drop by drop will fill you with the necessary energy.
  • Mutual support is also healing. Do not distance yourself from people, on the contrary, surround yourself with family and friends.


Question #6:

What can make PTSD worse and worse?

Negative attitude towards yourself, despair in your abilities, thoughts about your inability, self-condemnation, and feeling guilty for having uncontrollable states and emotions.

Don’t be too hard on yourself. Repeat to yourself: “I am strong, though vulnerable; I was injured, I need to be sensitive to myself! I’m fine, I’m overcoming difficulties, and I need more strength. I understand what is happening to me. I know when and who I can ask for help. I know who I can help!”


Question #7:

What can you do for loved ones if you notice signs of post-traumatic stress disorder in them?

  • Understand the nature of stress and PTSD.
  • Show compassion.
  • Allow them to speak, listen to them.
  • Support their self-esteem and self-confidence.
  • Do things together that fill you with energy.
  • Seek out resources and opportunities for recovery and healing.
  • Develop a shared life and activity routine that helps recovery (see tips above).


Bonus question:

How does the “Masha FUND” help women and children cope with stress during the “Unbreakable Mom” rehabilitation program?

We create psychological mutual support groups among mothers and children. In these groups, we exchange ideas, listen, tell our stories, look for resources, and share our coping strategies. All this takes place in an atmosphere of invaluable communication and ease. Usually, we also provide the necessary knowledge of psychology and specific action algorithms: how to cope with panic attacks or improve the quality of sleep, and how to help children. We also have individual consultations on all issues, not only on the issues of overcoming the effects of war. We work in a multimodal approach, using methods of cognitive-behavioral therapy, body stress therapy, and art methods.


The “Unbreakable Mom” rehabilitation program was specially developed by specialists in psychology and post-traumatic syndromes for women and children affected by war. It is a 3-week offline camp, where psychologists work with project participants, and then online support for three months.

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