Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) is a psychiatric disorder that affects 7.7 million Americans every year. PTSD can occur in individuals who have witnessed or experienced a traumatic event, causing them debilitating stress. Some of the common causes of PTSD include war/combat, natural disaster, violence against their person, among other traumatic events.
While women are twice as likely to experience post-traumatic stress, it is a disorder that affects both genders and all racial, ethnic, and socioeconomic barriers. The extreme stress and anxiety that comes as a result of trauma can be eased with various forms of therapies, inoculation training, medications and the use of weighted blankets with deep pressure stimulation.
With so many Americans suffering silently from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder and its serious effects, it is important to recognize the signs of PTSD and know when it is time to intervene.
The American Psychiatric Association’s Diagnostic Manual - V2 lists Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder as a stress and trauma-related disorder with four major categories of symptoms: avoidance, negative mood and cognitive alterations, arousal and reactivity alterations, and intrusion symptoms.
There are some telltale signs of PTSD that can alert an individual and their loved ones that they may be experiencing this disorder.
It is very common for PTSD sufferers to experience trouble sleeping. This can include difficulty falling asleep or staying asleep, and frequent nightmares or night terrors.
Nightmares may or may not include scenarios related to the traumatic event, or may contain other stressful scenarios that seem unrelated. Either way, they can stem from the stressful experience.
Weighted blankets are a great way to naturally regulate sleep cycles. Deep touch pressure can soothe the nervous system, making it easier to fall asleep and relieve anxiety that causes nightmares.
General irritability or shifts in mood can be red flags for PTSD. Uncharacteristic outbursts of anger can also grow out of underlying anger caused by PTSD.
Any anger issues that seem out of character for an individual or that seem like an over-reaction may be a sign for someone who has experienced a traumatic event.
It is not uncommon for trauma victims to feel emotionally disconnected from others, including family and friends. A sense of numbness can prevent PTSD sufferers from experiencing or expressing feelings of love and community.
Pulling away from others, disinterest in long lasting relationships or social gatherings are all indicators that someone may be experiencing PTSD symptoms.
An overall depressed mood is a major signal of PTSD.
Loss of interest in usual activities or hobbies, withdrawal from friends, family, and social interaction, and a seeming lack of joy can warn loved ones that an individual is experiencing PTSD.
Chronic anxiety usually manifests itself as hypervigilance. This means always imagining or anticipating the worst-case scenarios and staying on high alert even when it is not necessary.
Remaining in such an elevated emotional state makes relaxing, resting, and sleeping extremely difficult. Read more on weighted blankets and anxiety here.
Often, an individual will repeatedly remember and replay parts of the traumatic experience over and over again in the mind, no matter how hard he or she may try to forget or move on.
A person suffering from the effects of PTSD may or may not talk about these stressful memories to their loved ones.
Still, replaying the events can have maddening effects on an individual, causing them to spiral even further into anxiety, depression, and other PTSD symptoms.
A sense of paranoia may plague a person with PTSD. Overwhelming dread, fear, or sense of doom (when there are no indications of danger present) can prevent a person with PTSD from feeling safe.
These individuals may also feel that they have no control over their lives because of the traumatic experience they could not control, and will thus have a preoccupation with their surroundings in an attempt to exert control.
Suicidal thoughts may include passive statements, such as, “Everyone would be better without me” or active statements like “I am just going to shoot myself.”
Both active and passive suicide statements are major red flags that an individual is suffering from a mental health or psychiatric crisis and should seek professional help.
Post-traumatic Stress Disorder can be acute, short-term PTSD that just lasts for weeks or months, or long-term PTSD that can last for several years. Signs of the disorder may present themselves immediately after a traumatic event, in the weeks or months after the traumatic event, or even years down the road.
An individual who is having difficulty coping with an event in their past and is also experiencing a number of the symptoms listed above, should speak with a doctor about PTSD. A doctor diagnosing PTSD will usually consider how long the symptoms have lasted and what type of symptoms are occurring.
Any time a person is having suicidal thoughts or actions, professional help should be sought immediately. Doctors have a variety of medications and therapies available that can help treat PTSD.
Natural methods, such as Deep Touch Pressure and weighted blankets are great ways to alleviate PTSD symptoms and enhance PTSD drugs and therapies, but they should not be substituted for seeking professional help.
PTSD treatment is essential in many cases and they can be grouped into two major categories: medications and some form of therapy.
There are no specific medications for PTSD but related disorders and psychiatric conditions, like anxiety, depression, anger issues and others can be managed or their symptoms improved by drugs.
These medications are typically anti-depressants and more specifically selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRI) that are approved by the FDA for PTSD treatment.
It is also common to use anti-anxiety mediactions but only for a short time.
The medication part of the treatment must be monitored and managed closely by trained medical professionals.
There is a number of psychotherapy techniques that can help with PTSD. These are typically work along the lines of the following:
A mental health professional should be involved who can understand and manage the individual’s symptoms and potentially its root cause.
Most common therapies include cognitive processing therapy, eye movement desensitization and reprocessing, cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) and complementary therapis like deep touch pressure.
Individuals suffering from PTSD have experienced a loss of control during their traumatic experience. A situation or circumstance that they could not control or alter caused them harm or trauma. Othen these individuals feel unsafe or feel a need to be in control of their circumstances.
Deep Touch Pressure can help provide comfort and reassurance to individuals with post-traumatic stress.
While light touch can awaken or alert the senses, deep touch can calm the senses. This controlled, firm touch by the weight of the blanket can calm the nervous system by pressing on deep touch receptors throughout the body.
This therapeutic technique helps ground the body with a sense of relaxation and safety. Stimulating deep touch pressure points can also stimulate the brain to produce more serotonin.
Cortisol is sometimes called “the stress hormone”. It is secreted by the adrenal glands during stressful situations and injects glucose into the bloodstream so that the body can act appropriately in response to the stressful situation.
Serotonin is “the happy hormone” which helps manage anxiety and promotes an overall sense of well-being. Serotonin aids the body in calming and relaxing before sleep and also produces melatonin, which is necessary for sleep.
Weighted blankets, by stimulating deep touch pressure points in the body, can help decrease cortisol as well as encourage producing serotonin and melatonin. They essentially tell the body, “It is time to calm down. You are safe. You can go to sleep.” The benefits of weighted blankets are invaluable to those suffering the effects of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder.
Weighted blankets are exactly what they sound like: heavy blankets. But they are not just heavy comforters or quilts. These blankets are designed to evenly distribute pressure across the body.
Read more: How to Choose the Right Weighted Blanket?
Most weighted, calming, or anxiety blankets consist of small square pockets which are filled with weights, including beads, pellets, or even rice. The filled, square pockets are stitched together like a quilt, ensuring that the weight of the blanket is dispersed evenly and not all of the weights fall to one part.
Weighted blankets do not typically come in standard bed sizes, such as twin, queen, or king. This is because they are not designed to fit a bed; rather, they are designed to fit a person.
Most manufacturers or retailers will have the dimensions of the blanket listed so that the correct size can be chosen.
There are a variety of online retailers that allow consumers to custom make a blanket with specific dimensions, weights, or fabric. This is a great option, but be advised it will typically take longer to receive the weighted blanket when it has to be made-to-order.
When choosing the right weight for a blanket, the typical formula is 10 percent of body weight for adults.
If kids are using weighted blankets, the formula is generally 10 percent of their body weight, plus one to two pounds. However, these formulas are just guidelines that offer a starting point.
The purpose of a weighted blanket is comfort and sleep, neither of which will be achieved if the individual wrapped under the blanket is uncomfortable. Some retailers offer Try It Out programs in which consumers can try different blanket weights and find what works best for them.
Some people prefer blankets more than 10 percent of their body weight and others prefer blankets that are lighter and more manageable.
A variety of fabrics are also available for weighted blankets. Cotton blends, polyester, velvet, fleece, or satin are all popular choices. Keep in mind that it is easy for weighted blankets to get hot because of their extra weight.
For someone who struggles with getting overheated at night, consider a breathable cotton blend. For someone who likes to bundle up at night, a fleece or similar material may be a good choice. As long as the correct pressure is applied over the body to soothe the nervous system and stimulate serotonin, the fabric does not hinder the blanket’s effectiveness.
Remember, the goal is comfort. Choose a style, color, and fabric that makes using weighted blankets more pleasant to enhance their overall effect.
Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder is a serious psychiatric disorder that requires a medical diagnosis. Not everyone who experiences a traumatic event will develop PTSD, but those who do suffer from it may need all the professional help and natural therapies they can get.
Weighted blankets and the science of Deep Touch Pressure can be great ways to naturally calm both mind and body, helping alleviate common PTSD symptoms such as anxiety, depression, fear, and insomnia. DTP can decrease cortisol, increase serotonin, and help produce melatonin.
Drugs and other therapies can be highly beneficial for those suffering from PTSD, and weighted blankets can work with those treatments to effectively improve overall quality of life - especially the sleep/wake cycle.
Consider the many benefits of weighted blankets and find one that works!