Living with PTSD: Coping Skills & Mechanisms

Instructor: Quentin Shires

Quentin has taught psychology and other social science classes at the university level and is considered a doctoral colleague at Capella University.

In this lesson, learn how to live with Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder and utilize healthy coping skills to alleviate symptoms. Afterwards, take a quiz to see how well you understand the different coping mechanisms of this debilitating disorder.

What is PTSD?

PTSD is Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, or a mental health condition that is brought on by scary, dangerous, or traumatic events. Since everyone experiences these events differently, there is no specific type of event that will necessarily bring about symptoms of PTSD; therefore, it is important to understand these symptoms in order to identify and manage this potentially debilitating disorder.

Meditation is just one of the many relaxation techniques that can help alleviate PTSD symptoms.

The History of PTSD

From a historical perspective, PTSD is well known amongst military members returning from war. Originally called 'Shell Shock' in World War I, PTSD presented symptoms linked to a wide-range of psychological disturbances caused by a prolonged exposure to active war. It wasn't until the 1980's that the American Psychiatric Association placed the term Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder into the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual for Mental Disorders (DSM) III, allowing the diagnosis of this disorder to be used within civilian life. Essentially, the American Psychiatric Association determined that trauma does not only affect wartime heroes, but also that of civilians.

Do I have PTSD?

PTSD can be brought about by traumatic events such as war, verbal, physical, and emotional abuse, or the sudden death of a loved one. It is important to note that not everyone who experiences a traumatic event will necessarily develop PTSD; however, the course of the illness does vary between person to person, so it is important to understand the warning signs so you can seek help, learn coping skills, and understand the mechanisms to living with the disorder.

PTSD can only be diagnosed by qualified mental health professionals, all of which will look for symptoms that include bad dreams, frightening thoughts, flashbacks, avoiding places, experiencing angry outbursts, and being startled easily. According to the American Psychiatric Association, to be diagnosed with PTSD you must experience at least one of these symptoms for at least a month.

Coping with PTSD

Imagine a life where you can sleep easily, feel at ease throughout the day, and not avoid places that you once enjoyed visiting. This can be your life! There are many ways to cope with PTSD; however, blending coping skills with mental health treatment and perhaps a medicine regimen of anti-depressants, can provide the best results. Remember that coping skills will vary, depending on what works for you and what your interests are, so don't be afraid to try as many as you can.

Peer support groups

To take care of yourself while you are experiencing PTSD, connecting with other people is very important. Joining a peer support group can help you connect with other individuals who share similar symptoms, and provide you with personal support. Talking about your experiences, feelings, and emotions with your peers can help provide you with not only support, but hope that things will get better.


Relaxation is a great way to manage symptoms as it allows you to ensure that you are taking care of yourself and connecting your mind, body, and spirit. There are many different ways to relax your body; yoga, meditation, and praying are just some of the different ways that we can relax. If you find it hard to quiet your mind, it can be a good idea to try a guided meditation. Guided meditations help you to relax and still your mind while listening to calm instructions and words. This helps keep your mind focused and deepens the level of relaxation.


Exercise can also be a great way to manage symptoms of PTSD so one basic rule is to get up and move! Even if you are not a routine exerciser, taking a short walk or getting out and about can help alleviate the symptoms as your body releases endorphins, which decrease pain levels, increase feelings of positivity and decreases stress.

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