Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder

Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder

Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder

Many people experience a traumatic event in life such as a road traffic collision; the death of a person; or physical, sexual, or emotional abuse.

Most of us are able to readjust without experiencing long-term problems, but others might develop a type of anxiety disorder called post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). PTSD can occur immediately following the traumatic incident or weeks, months, or years afterwards.

PTSD is often mistaken as something that only affects members of the armed forces who have been in combat, but everyone responds to trauma differently, and trauma is not exclusive to a warzone.

Prevalence

Over eight million Americans over the age 18 have PTSD, including 30% of first responders and 20% of police. Those who have experienced traumatic events previously are at a higher risk of developing PTSD. In the US ,3.6% of adults experienced PTSD in the previous 12 months, and 40% of children have experienced at least one trauma during childhood. PTSD develops in 67% of people exposed to Mass violence.

Symptoms of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder:

The symptoms a person may experience can change in severity over time and when in stressful circumstances.
The main symptoms of PTSD are:

  • Avoidance – physically avoiding particular events, people, places, or items connected to the traumatic experience
  • Emotional numbness – feeling detached from friends and family, diminished or no interest in activities previously enjoyed, diminished capacity to experience positive emotions
  • Negative thoughts about oneself, others, or the world
  • Relationship issues
  • Problems with memory, including recalling specifics about the initial trauma
  • Extreme guilt or shame
  • Substance abuse issues
  • Engagement in reckless behavior, like driving too fast, or other self-destructive activities
  • Flashbacks – Bad dreams, terrifying thoughts, and flashbacks which can also include palpitations, sweating, or other physical symptoms
  • Reactivity and arousal – difficulty sleeping, feeling the need to be extremely vigilant about one’s safety, being easily angered, and being startled easily

Symptoms can cause mild to severe interruptions to everyday life and can be triggered by seeing something or hearing something which reminds the person of the traumatic event. This can lead to depression and anger because symptoms are typically ongoing and not a result of a trigger.

PTSD and Children

Trauma affects adults differently than it does younger people. In addition to symptoms common to adults, older children will have symptoms that are destructive, or they will display a lack of respect. Younger children can exhibit symptoms that include being extremely clingy, being unable to talk, bedwetting, or acting out the trauma during playtime. These symptoms in no way indicate that the trauma is less severe.

Diagnosing Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder:

To be diagnosed with PTSD, an adult must have all of the following symptoms for at least one month:

  • One instance of re-experiencing the trauma through a bad dream, overwhelming scary thoughts, or a flashback
  • One instance of avoiding places, events, or things that remind the person of the traumatic experience
  • Two instances of being triggered and reacting to reminders of the trauma – being easily startled and having angry outbursts
  • Two instances of cognition and mood symptoms – such as forgetting important moments of the traumatic event, guilt, or not wanting to do anything enjoyable
  • Having a history of mental illness or substance abuse

The symptoms must also be severe enough to interfere with relationships or debilitate important areas of functioning — social, occupational, academic, and/or other.

You can screen yourself or a loved one using tools provided by the Anxiety and Depression Association of America (ADAA).

Treatments and Therapies for Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder:

The treatment for PTSD can include medication, talk therapy, psychotherapy, EMDR, exposure therapy, and community support. It is critical for an individual to be treated by someone with experience with PTSD.

Each case is different based on the trauma and that person’s response to the triggers and various types of medication or therapy, so a treatment must be customized to the individual. It is not uncommon for a person to work with their doctor to try a number of treatments to see what works best for them.

  • Talk therapy – such as cognitive-behavioral therapy. Helps educate the person on the condition, their symptoms and thought patterns, what the current triggers are, and how to adopt behaviors and perspectives to help reduce symptoms and manage the condition.
  • Psychotherapy – individual or group therapy can last between one and a half months to three months.
  • EMDR – eye movement desensitization and reprocessing (EMDR). EMDR involves moving your eyes from side to side while recounting the traumatic experience. How EMDR works is unknown; however, this form of therapy has been reported to be highly effective in the treatment of PTSD, GAD, and OCD.
  • Exposure therapy – to gradually expose an individual to the source of trauma as a way to help them slowly become less sensitive to it. This can be done in person or through virtual reality graded exposure therapy (VRGET).
  • Community – Where possible, additional support from family and friends has been shown to be a critical part of the path to recovery. For individuals who have PTSD due to an ongoing situation like a toxic workplace or an abusive relationship, both the situation and the condition need to be tackled to bring the most relief.
  • Lifestyle changes – such as getting daily exercise, a good night’s sleep, and adopting a healthy diet.
  • Medications

    • Antidepressant medication – such as a selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor
    • Sleeping meds – to help with falling asleep or staying asleep
    • Antiadrenergic agents – slow down the central nervous system
    • CBD oil – can provide relief after a random PTSD moment

Everyone responds to the trauma in accidents, violent acts, or natural disasters differently, and when taking the first steps towards treatment it can be difficult to know where to start. A family doctor can get you started with some initial guidance, and while it can take time and be difficult at times, there are successful and proven treatments through which people can get better. If you would prefer not to talk to the doctor, you can do a search for hotlines, social services or mental health providers in your area.


Productive and helpful activities during treatment

  • Work with your doctor to help create achievable goals that have smaller, prioritized action steps
  • Spend time with trustworthy, comforting, supportive, and encouraging people
  • Tell those closest to you about potential triggers
  • Anticipate seeing gradual improvement for your symptoms
  • Find and spend time at comforting events and places

Symptoms of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder:

The symptoms a person may experience can change in severity over time and when in stressful circumstances.
The main symptoms of PTSD are:

  • Avoidance – physically avoiding particular events, people, places, or items connected to the traumatic experience
  • Emotional numbness – feeling detached from friends and family, diminished or no interest in activities previously enjoyed, diminished capacity to experience positive emotions
  • Negative thoughts about oneself, others, or the world
  • Relationship issues
  • Problems with memory, including recalling specifics about the initial trauma
  • Extreme guilt or shame
  • Substance abuse issues
  • Engagement in reckless behavior, like driving too fast, or other self-destructive activities
  • Flashbacks – Bad dreams, terrifying thoughts, and flashbacks which can also include palpitations, sweating, or other physical symptoms
  • Reactivity and arousal – difficulty sleeping, feeling the need to be extremely vigilant about one’s safety, being easily angered, and being startled easily

Symptoms can cause mild to severe interruptions to everyday life and can be triggered by seeing something or hearing something which reminds the person of the traumatic event. This can lead to depression and anger because symptoms are typically ongoing and not a result of a trigger.

PTSD and Children

Trauma affects adults differently than it does younger people. In addition to symptoms common to adults, older children will have symptoms that are destructive, or they will display a lack of respect. Younger children can exhibit symptoms that include being extremely clingy, being unable to talk, bedwetting, or acting out the trauma during playtime. These symptoms in no way indicate that the trauma is less severe.

Diagnosis of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder:

To be diagnosed with PTSD, an adult must have all of the following symptoms for at least one month:

  • One instance of re-experiencing the trauma through a bad dream, overwhelming scary thoughts, or a flashback
  • One instance of avoiding places, events, or things that remind the person of the traumatic experience
  • Two instances of being triggered and reacting to reminders of the trauma – being easily startled and having angry outbursts
  • Two instances of cognition and mood symptoms – such as forgetting important moments of the traumatic event, guilt, or not wanting to do anything enjoyable
  • Having a history of mental illness or substance abuse

The symptoms must also be severe enough to interfere with relationships or debilitate important areas of functioning — social, occupational, academic, and/or other.

You can screen yourself or a loved one using tools provided by the Anxiety and Depression Association of America (ADAA).

Treatments and Therapies for Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder:

The treatment for PTSD can include medication, talk therapy, psychotherapy, EMDR, exposure therapy, and community support. It is critical for an individual to be treated by someone with experience with PTSD.

Each case is different based on the trauma and that person’s response to the triggers and various types of medication or therapy, so a treatment must be customized to the individual. It is not uncommon for a person to work with their doctor to try a number of treatments to see what works best for them.

  • Talk therapy – such as cognitive-behavioral therapy. Helps educate the person on the condition, their symptoms and thought patterns, what the current triggers are, and how to adopt behaviors and perspectives to help reduce symptoms and manage the condition.
  • Psychotherapy – individual or group therapy can last between one and a half months to three months.
  • EMDR – eye movement desensitization and reprocessing (EMDR). EMDR involves moving your eyes from side to side while recounting the traumatic experience. How EMDR works is unknown; however, this form of therapy has been reported to be highly effective in the treatment of PTSD, GAD, and OCD.
  • Exposure therapy – to gradually expose an individual to the source of trauma as a way to help them slowly become less sensitive to it. This can be done in person or through virtual reality graded exposure therapy (VRGET).
  • Community – Where possible, additional support from family and friends has been shown to be a critical part of the path to recovery. For individuals who have PTSD due to an ongoing situation like a toxic workplace or an abusive relationship, both the situation and the condition need to be tackled to bring the most relief.
  • Lifestyle changes – such as getting daily exercise, a good night’s sleep, and adopting a healthy diet.
  • Medications

    • Antidepressant medication – such as a selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor
    • Sleeping meds – to help with falling asleep or staying asleep
    • Antiadrenergic agents – slow down the central nervous system
    • CBD oil – can provide relief after a random PTSD moment

Everyone responds to the trauma in accidents, violent acts, or natural disasters differently, and when taking the first steps towards treatment it can be difficult to know where to start. A family doctor can get you started with some initial guidance, and while it can take time and be difficult at times, there are successful and proven treatments through which people can get better. If you would prefer not to talk to the doctor, you can do a search for hotlines, social services or mental health providers in your area.


Productive and helpful activities during treatment

  • Work with your doctor to help create achievable goals that have smaller, prioritized action steps
  • Spend time with trustworthy, comforting, supportive, and encouraging people
  • Tell those closest to you about potential triggers
  • Anticipate seeing gradual improvement for your symptoms
  • Find and spend time at comforting events and places