Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) is a mental disorder that occurs in some people after experiencing a scary, shocking or dangerous event.
Here are some examples:
- Disasters such as a tornado or an earthquake
- Military operations
- Violence or abuse of any kind
- A serious accident
People with PTSD experience a sense of increased danger. They feel fearful or stressed, even when they’re in a safe environment, as a result of their altered fight-or-flight response.
Many war veterans suffer from PTSD, which was once called “battle fatigue” or “shell shock”. The National Center on PTSD estimates that about 12 percent of Gulf War veterans and 15 percent of Vietnam War veterans suffer from PTSD.
However, PTSD can affect anyone at any age. This response is a result of chemical and neural changes in the brain after exposure to a threat. Being diagnosed with PTSD does not mean you’re weak or flawed.
Read: Acute Stress
PTSD can interfere with your ability to carry out your normal activities. Symptoms of PTSD may be triggered by hearing or seeing things that remind you of the trauma.
PTSD symptoms are divided into four groups:
- Having flashbacks in which the event recurs over and over
- The event left vivid, unpleasant memories in your mind
- The event often causes nightmares
- An intense emotional or physical reaction to the event
Essentially, avoidance refers to doing everything in your power to forget the people, places, or situations that remind traumatic events.
Reactivity and arousal
- Concentration problems
- When startled, you tend to respond exaggeratedly
- Constantly on edge
Cognition and mood
- Self-deprecating thoughts
- Worry, guilt or blame distorted feelings
- Not being able to recall important details of the event
- You are no longer interested in activities you used to enjoy
These symptoms can occur during panic attacks:
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PTSD symptoms in women
A study by the American Psychiatric Association found that women have twice the risk of trauma-induced stress disorder (PTSD) as men, and the PTSD symptoms exhibit slightly differently.
Women are more likely:
- Depressed and anxious
- Having no emotions, numb
- Easily startled
- Reactive to traumatic memories
Female PTSD symptoms last longer than male symptoms. According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, women wait four years to see a doctor, whereas men seek help within a year of their symptoms beginning.
Read: Stress During Pregnancy
PTSD symptoms in men
PTSD symptoms in men usually include reliving the trauma, avoidance, mood issues, cognitive issues, and arousal problems. PTSD symptoms in men commonly emerge within a month of the trauma, but they can continue for months or even years.
The symptoms of PTSD vary from person to person. The symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder are different depending on the biology and trauma of the individual.
The main objective of PTSD treatment is to reduce physical and emotional symptoms, improve daily lifestyle, and learn to cope with the experiences that caused the disorder.
Usually, doctors prescribe psychotherapy (a type of counseling), medication, or both to treat PTSD.
Doctors use antidepressants to treat PTSD. These medications control feelings of anxiety, such as:
- SSRIs such as sertraline (Zoloft), fluvoxamine (Luvox), citalopram (Celexa), fluoxetine (Prozac) and paroxetine (Paxil).
- Tricyclic antidepressants such as isocarboxazid (Doxepin) and amitriptyline (Elavil)
- Mood stabilizers such as lamotrigine (Lamictal) and divalproex (Depakote)
- Atypical antipsychotics such as quetiapine (Seroquel) and aripiprazole (Abilify)
There are also medicines used to control specific symptoms of high blood pressure:
- Prazosin to relieve nightmares
- Clonidine (Catapres) for sleep
- Using propranolol (Indra) can help prevent traumatic memories
PTSD experts don’t recommend tranquilizers like lorazepam (Ativan) or clonazepam for treatment since studies show they are ineffective, plus they can cause physical dependence or addiction.
Related: 12 Simple Ways to Reduce Stress
PTSD can be treated with psychotherapy by teaching patients how to manage symptoms and develop coping skills. Additionally, therapy aims to educate and help the individuals deal with traumatic events and overcome their anxieties.
People with PTSD can be treated in a variety of ways, including:
Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT)
Therapy focuses on identifying and changing the thought patterns that contribute to problematic emotions, feelings, and behavior.
Prolonged exposure therapy
Behavior therapy is in which the traumatic event is relived or the person is exposed to situations or objects that cause anxiety. This therapy is conducted in a safe and well-regulated environment.
With prolonged exposure therapy, a person is slowly able to confront their fear and gain comfort in challenging situations. This treatment is very effective for treating PTSD.
Psychodynamic therapy is designed to help individuals examine their own core values and the conflicts they face as a result of the traumatic event.
may be useful because the behavior of the person with PTSD can have an effect on other family members.
Group therapy allows people to talk about their traumatic experiences with others who have been through similar situations.
Eye desensitization and reprocessing (EMDR)
This is a complex part of Psychotherapy is a powerful tool for treating phobias and has been used for decades to cure trauma.
Traumatic events like natural disasters, military combat, or assault can trigger PTSD, which affects people who have been through or witnessed such events.
Many people don’t experience problems after they have experienced one of these events, but a small percentage develops post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Trauma causes actual mental changes.
In 2018, a study showed that those with this disorder had a smaller hippocampus, which is involved in emotional and memory processing. It is unclear if this hippocampal volume decrease was caused by the trauma or if the trauma caused it.
There is a need for more research in this area. PTSD patients may be prone to unbalanced stress hormone levels, which may trigger an overreactive flight or fight response. Many people have good stress management abilities while others do not.
Read: Stress Response Syndrome
An emergency medical situation can be as traumatizing as a natural disaster or act of violence.
Studies show that 1/9 of heart attack survivors develop post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) afterward. The treatment regimen required to get better is less likely to be followed by those who develop PTSD after a medical event.
PTSD can develop without any serious medical condition. Minor illnesses and surgeries can be traumatic if they upset you greatly.
Post-traumatic stress disorder may occur if you continuously think about and relive important medical events, and believe that you’re still at risk after these events have passed. You should see your healthcare provider if you are still upset after a week.
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Birth is generally an exciting time for new moms, but it can also be challenging for some of them.
A 2018 study found that up to 4 percent of women suffer from postpartum depression after having a child. A more common cause of PTSD among women is pregnancy complications or premature birth.
You are at greater risk of postpartum PTSD if:
- Have depression
- Have a fear of childbirth
- Your previous pregnancy was not good
- Have no support network
A new baby can become difficult to care for if you have post-traumatic stress disorder. Consider seeing a healthcare provider for an evaluation if you exhibit symptoms of PTSD after giving birth to your baby.
Related: Postpartum Anxiety
PTSD cannot be diagnosed by a specific test. Trauma can make diagnosis difficult since some people are reluctant to discuss, recall or recall their symptoms of the disorder.
In order to diagnose PTSD, you should consult with a mental health professional, such as a psychologist, psychiatrist or psychiatric nurse practitioner.
The following symptoms of PTSD must be present for at least one month to be diagnosed:
- Experienced at least one recurrent symptom
- One or more avoidance symptoms
- At least two reactivity and arousal symptoms
- At least two mood and cognition symptoms
The symptoms must be severe enough to interfere with daily routines, such as school, work, or family and friends.
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Types of PTSD
PTSD has many subtypes, but some experts use condition “specifiers” to break down the symptoms to help diagnose and treat them.
- Traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is not acute stress disorder (ASD): These symptoms occur within a month following a traumatic event and include anxiety and avoidance. ASD is often associated with PTSD.
- Dissociative PTSD is characterized by the inability to connect with the trauma. You feel detached or out of your body when experiencing the event.
- Uncomplicated PTSD without further mental health issues is when you experience the traumatic events and avoid the people and places that remind you of them, but you do not suffer from other mental health disorders such as depression. Treatment is often effective for patients with the uncomplicated subtype.
- Comorbid PTSD is marked by PTSD symptoms, plus another mental health condition like substance abuse problem, depression or anxiety. Treatment for PTSD and the other mental disorder are most effective for individuals with this illness.
Additional specifiers include:
- “Derealization” refers to a state of mind in which the individual feels physically and emotionally detached from the world. In their immediate environment, they are unable to comprehend reality.
- “with delayed expression” means that the individual does not meet fully the criteria of post-traumatic stress disorder until six months after the traumatic event. Even if symptoms start appearing right away, they may not be enough for a complete diagnosis of PTSD.
Related: Derealization Disorder
Many PTSD trigger events are over once they happen, like a car accident or a violent attack. In some cases, such as abuse at home or human trafficking, neglect continues for a long time.
Complex PTSD describes the psychological effects of continuing long-term or multiple traumas, which cannot be readily differentiated from classic post-traumatic stress disorder.
The psychological effects of chronic trauma are much worse than that of a single event. It is important to note that the diagnostic criteria for complex PTSD are the subject of considerable debate among professionals.
Complex PTSD may include additional symptoms, such as uncontrollable emotions and negative self-perceptions.
Read more: Complex Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder
PTSD and depression
It is often the case that these two conditions occur together. You are more likely to have PTSD if you have depression and vice versa.
There are many overlapping symptoms, so you may not be able to tell which one you have. Depression and PTSD both share the following symptoms:
- Emotional outbursts
- Interest in activities decreases
- Trouble sleeping
Both PTSD and depression can be treated with some of the same treatments.
People with PTSD may have difficulty sleeping. When trauma has been experienced in an intense way, most people find it difficult to fall asleep or sleep through the night.
It is possible to have nightmares about the traumatic event even after you have fallen asleep. Traumatic stress disorder patients are more likely to experience nightmares than people without this condition.
One early study was conducted by the National Center for PTSD and found young Vietnam veterans had more nightmares than civilians (52% vs 3%).
Replicative nightmares are often associated with PTSD. It occurs about once a week and can be particularly vivid and upsetting.
Check all: Sleep Disorders
PTSD in teens
It’s hard enough to cope with teenage emotions. A person who is no longer a child, but at the same time, not quite an adult, may have difficulty processing trauma.
PTSD in teens often displays as aggressive or behavior. Teens may engage in dangerous activities like drugs or alcohol use as a way to cope. Those with difficult emotions may also be hesitant to express them.
As with adults and children, CBT can be an effective treatment for teens with PTSD. Antidepressants and other medications may be beneficial for some kids in conjunction with therapy.
Must read about: Depression in Teens
PTSD in children
Children are resilient. The majority of the time, they recover from traumatic experiences. Nevertheless, they may still relive the event or experience other symptoms of PTSD months later.
Symptoms of PTSD in children include:
- Anxiety and sadness
- Inability to control their anger and irritability
- Avoid people and places connected to the event
- Negativity all the time
Children with PTSD may benefit from CBT and medication, just as adults do. Parents, teachers, and friends need to provide extra care and support to help children feel safe again.
Related: Childhood Depression
Coping with PTSD
You can use psychotherapy to cope with PTSD symptoms. You can discover symptom triggers and manage your symptoms as well as face your fears. Also helpful is the support of family and friends.
By understanding PTSD, you will be able to effectively cope with your feelings. Healthy eating and exercise can also help people with PTSD.
Support groups provide a safe place for people with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) to discuss their feelings with others. Your symptoms are not unusual and you are not alone, so understanding that can help you feel less alone.
PTSD risk factors
PTSD is more likely to result from certain traumatic events, including:
- Military combat
- Childhood abuse
- Physical violence
People who undergo traumatic experiences do not always develop PTSD. Traumatic events that were severe or lasting and lasted a long time are more likely to result in the disorder.
PTSD may also result from other factors such as:
- Mental illness such as depression
- Substance abuse
- lack of support
- Police officers, military members, or first responders that expose them to traumatic events
- Female gender
- Families affected by PTSD
Living with a person who has PTSD
PTSD affects more than just the person who has it. People around them can be affected by their effects. Many people with PTSD are affected by anger or fear, which can strain relationships even in the strongest of families.
If you know as much about PTSD as possible, you can become a better supporter and advocate for a loved one. You can find helpful tips from family members who have been in your position, or who are currently living with it, by joining a support group.
Ensure that your loved one receives the proper treatment, which may include medication, therapy or both.
Additionally, try to acknowledge that maintaining a relationship with a person with PTSD can be challenging. The challenges are numerous. If you feel the need for caregiver support, reach out to mental health professional. Therapists are available to help you cope with stress, anxiety and frustration.
How common is PTSD
A National Center for PTSD study reveals that 60% of men and at least half of women will experience trauma in their lifetime. A traumatic event does not always result in PTSD.
Researchers found that women suffer from PTSD at a rate of around 10 percent throughout their lifetime. For men, PTSD occurs at least five percent of the time. PTSD is twice as common in women as in men.
The prevalence of PTSD among adolescents and children has only been partially studied. It is estimated that adolescents 13 to 18 years of age have a lifetime prevalence of 5 percent.
Tragically, traumatic events cannot be prevented. Even so, there are some steps you can take if you have survived a traumatic event to protect yourself from flashbacks and other symptoms.
One way to prevent PTSD is to have a supportive network. Be sure to consult people you trust, like your spouse, friends, or siblings. Your support network can help you process your experiences when you are struggling.
Whenever you find yourself in a challenging situation, try to reframe your thinking. Consider yourself a survivor, rather than a victim.
Providing support to other people who are suffering from a life-changing event may help you find meaning in your trauma, which in turn may help you heal yourself.
The effects of PTSD can be felt in every aspect of your life, including your relationships and work.
It increases the risk for:
- Thinking or acting suicidal
When people with PTSD experience symptoms, they may turn to alcohol and drugs for relief. They temporarily alleviate negative emotions, but they do not treat the root cause. Some symptoms can even be made worse by them.
The therapist may recommend an alcohol or drug dependency program if you’ve been abusing substances.
Who gets PTSD
Most people with PTSD experienced trauma such as war, natural disasters, accidents, or assault. Some people may not experience symptoms after one of these incidents.
You can manage stress better if you have support.
PTSD can be caused by prolonged and severe trauma. Stress that has a longer duration and is more severe increases your risk of developing depression. PTSD is also more likely to occur if you have depression or another mental health condition.
PTSD can affect people of all ages, ethnicity, or income levels. This condition is more common in women than in men.
When to seek help for PTSD
If you’re suffering from PTSD, know that you are not alone. There are 8 million adults with PTSD in a given year according to the National Center for PTSD.
You should check for help if your thoughts are upsetting, you are unable to control your actions, or you fear harming yourself or others. Seek immediate medical treatment or mental health care.
Seek Help: Mental Help Resources
Viewpoints on PTSD
PTSD can be treated early to alleviate symptoms. You can also learn effective strategies to deal with feelings, intrusive thoughts and memories.
Medications, support groups, and therapy can help you overcome your addiction.
It’s important to remember you’re not alone. Whenever you need support, we are here to help you.