PTSD patients have trouble in letting go of the terrifying memories they have in the past. If puzzles could help improve our cognitive abilities, would it also help patients with PTSD recover?
Let’s discuss it below.
Do puzzles help with PTSD?
Puzzles can help PTSD patients recover when used as a medium in their psychotherapy sessions with their therapist.
Using puzzles, such as jigsaw puzzles, are effective tools to make diversions in our thinking process. It can help us focus on things that require increased attention at the moment we’re in.
Patients with PTSD are those people who have experienced terrifying events in their lives. The awful event lingers in their memory that is hard to detach themselves with.
We can say that this is a type of medical illusion whereby patients are psychologically guided to address the issues and problems they have within themselves.
To create a breather for those patients, therapists help them by recreating the events that had happened, then letting them express in words all their thoughts and feelings on that exact situation.
Indeed, it will open up again the wounds and trauma of that day but it’s the only way to learn the deepest and darkest moments in our lives so that we’ll know how to end them.
Playing puzzles while having a conversation with their therapist can give a deep redirection and refocusing on thoughts on patients undergoing psychotherapy. They’ll be able to “meet” their old selves and address the things that made them unstable in the present time.
Let’s put it this way.
What would you feel if you’re all alone in a large dark room? You might feel scared, cold, sad, or anything in between. But why? That’s because we fear the unknown. We fear that there “might” be things that would harm us in any way possible but in reality, there’s nothing to fear at all. All we need to do is look for the “light switch” in that dark room so we can see our environment and reveal that there’s nothing to be afraid of.
If we seek to learn the truth, we’ll be able to manage how we would feel if we’re in the same place again.
With this, it can help PTSD patients identify their deep hidden fears to be addressed later on in their following sessions.
Why are puzzles so calming?
Puzzles are calming because they can help us release feel-good hormones in our body, making us more relax and calm.
Feel-good hormones are dopamine, serotonin, endorphins, and oxytocin. These hormones produce positive effects on our well-being thus being called one.
As simple as playing jigsaw puzzle can trigger the release of these hormones.
How is that possible, you might ask.
Well, I have discussed the complete details of each hormone action in my article about jigsaw puzzle addicts. There you will know how do each hormone affects our body whenever they are released into our system.
To make you understand the calming effect of playing puzzles, let me give you an example.
What will you do if your computer suddenly hanged up?
Well, I don’t know what exactly you do but in my case, I restart or reboot it to stop all the unnecessary running programs in my computer and to make it work smoothly like it used to.
This is true if we talk about how our mind works too.
We need to calm down our minds every now and then, to refresh or restart our way of thinking. This can be done by practicing meditation kinds of stuff like yoga, guided meditation music, and even playing jigsaw puzzles.
It calms, it resets, it quiets, it refocuses, and it rediverts our minds to make it work in its full capacity once again.
Just like if you live in a house full of clutter. When all your things are all over the place, it stresses you out. You feel uncomfortable and uneasy, and it feels suffocating, right? When we started to clean up, we need energy and time to put things right back into their rightful place. It’s tiring but in the end, it’s really worth it because all things are now well-kept and organized. We feel light and happy.
Having a clear state of mind initiates the release of the feeling of satisfaction and happiness brought about by our happy hormones.
What is PTSD?
PTSD stands for post-traumatic stress disorder.
It is a mental health condition where the patient (of any age) has witnessed or experienced an extreme type of traumatic event.
If we dissect the word itself, it means that the individual has a stress disorder related to a past frightening event he/she had witnessed or experienced.
Unfortunately, this event sticks to the patient’s mind for some time and had difficulty in letting it go.
You see, each individual has different coping mechanism for every events happening or had happened in their lives.
Some can easily get over it in a few days, some in months, some in years, and unfortunately, other can’t.
Traumatic events like death of a loved one, failure in goals, witnessed war, and any form of abuse may lead to PTSD.
These events are extremely heavy to bear alone. A support system is needed to help the person carry the load he/she might have inside their hearts and in their heads.
Empathy is one key factor to help these people. We need to put ourselves in their shoes to feel what they feel by actively listening to them. Being able to express and unload their grieves, fears, trauma to someone they can depend and count on in the lowest times of their lives would mean so much for them.
What are symptoms of PTSD?
Here are the list of most commonly encountered symptoms of PTSD:
- Insomnia caused by recurring nightmares
- Unwanted flashbacks
- Memory problems
- Aggressive behavior
- Extreme defensiveness
Post-traumatic stress disorder happens when the individual hasn’t able to let go of the unfortunate traumatic experiences he/she had.
The appearance of these symptoms doesn’t have an exact time to when and where it would be expressed. Some patients may develop these after weeks of the event, some after months, and some after years.
The complete explanation as to why this is happening and why does it vary among people is still unknown. What we do know is that people with these behaviors should be looked out for and advised to seek medical help and support as soon as possible.
Let’s now discuss each symptoms of PTSD below.
Overthinking is a manner done by thinking too much about things that don’t usually need special attention. It is attributed to patients with PTSD for they always over-analyze and connect situations on that of the traumatic event they’ve experienced. This a defensive behavior to alert themselves as to what could happen next.
Anxiety is an extreme feeling of fear and worry from an unknown source. Patients with PTSD are anxious in their surroundings because they fear that something worse is going to happen to them. They anticipate the negative outcome excessively before anything happens. This behavior is always present in any situation they’re in especially when they’re triggered by things linked to the traumatic events.
3. Insomnia caused by recurring nightmares
Insomnia is the inability of a person to sleep and to stay asleep at night. People having difficulty sleeping are associated with stress, mental health disorders, medications, and poor lifestyles.
Patients with PTSD are often stressed in their daily lives affecting their regular sleep patterns. Other patients may not be stress in the daytime but may have recurring nightmares related to the traumatic events they’ve experienced.
4. Unwanted flashbacks
Flashbacks are involuntary mental visions reliving the past events we’ve experienced before. These events are things that struck us the most in our lives. The thing is, in patients with PTSD, their terrifying experiences keep haunting them even if they don’t want to. This causes distress and anxiety on their part.
5. Memory problems
Memory problems are mental issues that make patients tend to forget things because of their inability to concentrate and focus on important things that matter. This is usually being faced by people with PTSD. The reason behind this is all their attention lingers on the past events alone leaving them physically and mentally exhausted. When extreme tiredness persists over time, our brain’s circuit will not function the way it should be that’s why they tend to forget things. Unfortunately, their traumatic experiences stay rather than their precious memories.
Pessimism is a negative way of thinking about everything in life. PTSD patients may always feel negative about everything in their lives after the awful event. They tend to lose hope in their future. Eventually, this mental attitude will drag down their self-confidence and trust in other people leading to problems with their relationships with people around them.
7. Aggressive behavior
Aggressive behavior is violent actions that can cause harm to others. Some PTSD patients are violent whenever they see people or things associated with their past. This aggression is their coping mechanism to help them be on guard and prevent the same situation they’ve been before from happening again.
8. Extreme defensiveness
Extreme defensiveness is one way of self-preservation by people who experienced trauma. This coping capability may vary from being emotionally distant, lack of communication, or being absent in social gatherings.
What triggers PTSD?
As mentioned above, the appearance of PTSD symptoms varies from person to person. Most of the time, the appearance of symptoms is associated with the listed triggers below.
Here are the list of most common triggers of PTSD:
- Emotions and feelings
- Sensory associated experiences like smell, sound, and taste
These triggers do have a connection to what they experienced thus, re-enactment of the same awful events in the minds will comeback.
One common example for this trigger are soldiers who have returned home after war.
At first, they seem to feel happy about getting home but as time goes by, symptoms of PTSD will appear. This happens when the emotional and mental toll of war becomes unbearable. Most of the time it can be triggered by people who looked like their enemies at war, sounds similar to bombs or gunshots, and even words they might hear from a distance similar to the words that their lost friend had said.
It all can relive the feeling like they’re still in a dangerous situation where they can’t be saved by no one.
Knowing what triggers the symptoms of PTSD patients is one way to help them cope up with their situation. And the only way to know what are these is to let them share with others what truly happened on that particular event. You’ll notice it right away for they’ll put emphasis on those triggers as they speak.
What does PTSD look like?
PTSD attacks differ and vary among people having it based on the situation they’ve been in. In some, they manifest extreme emotions of fear that may lead them to cry, others may just blankly stare at a thing.
Their reactions are all related to their triggers, and those triggers are all related to their past.
Whenever there’s a connection to their past, they tend to react the same way they did in that exact moment.
If the past event almost cost their lives, they will tend to be more aggressive. Self-preservation is their main goal that’s why they’ll do anything and everything just to spare their lives from that situation.
Other events makes them feel helpless, that’s why they do all sorts of act just to get attention from others.
If the experience is hopeless, then the patient may feel hopeless even after all of it had gone.
Is PTSD serious?
Post-traumatic stress disorder may become serious if it already affects the normal daily life of a person.
If it alters the way of living of the patient and the people around them, then it is a case that should be medically addressed.
Common treatments for these patients are medications and psychoactive treatment to rewire their way of thinking and help them manage their symptoms whenever there’s a trigger.
What is the best therapy for PTSD?
Cognitive-behavioural therapy is the best psychotherapy to help PTSD patients recover to their normal state.
To help patients to return back to their normal state, the therapy should be able to help patients manage their symptoms, improve their coping mechanism skills, and bring back their self-esteem.
This can be done by exercising their communication skills. Of course not in the sense that the patient will practice a monologue or a recitation type of activity but, their ability to express in words all of their thoughts, ideas, and emotions.
With this, the therapist could help them manage all their unorganized perceptions to things.
One example to practice this therapy is by engaging in brain stimulation activities like playing puzzles, like jigsaw puzzles, while having a conversation with the therapist. This conversational therapy will help them identify their trigger based on past events. Once identified, awareness about it should be practiced to manage to deal with it whenever possible.
PTSD is a mental health condition where extreme traumatic events are experienced by certain people of any ages.
Helping these patients handle their symptoms properly can only be done when we’re also fully aware what are their triggers by observing how they react on things around them.
Playing jigsaw puzzles help PTSD patients to focus and concentrate. When this game is coupled with psychotherapy it’ll be of better combination to make it easier for them to recall their past experiences and identify their triggers.
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