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Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder

What is Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)?

Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) is an anxiety disorder that impacts people who have been exposed to life-threatening events. Ordinarily, people with PTSD live in fear long after the event is over and will need to seek professional help to heal from the disorder. 


The National Center for PTSD says that PTSD can develop after a traumatic event, after which a person experiences a stress-related reaction that does not go away after time. According to the Mayo Clinic, PTSD is triggered by a terrifying event, and the symptoms are generally grouped into three types: intrusive memories, avoidance and numbing, and increased anxiety or emotional arousal (hyperarousal). In the medical literature, PTSD is sometimes classified as acute (symptoms last less than 3 months), chronic (symptoms last 3 months or longer), or delayed onset (at least 6 months have passed between the traumatic event and the onset of the symptoms).


Most people who experience a traumatic event may have problems adjusting and coping in the aftermath. With time and self-care, they generally feel better in the long run. However, if your symptoms get worse over time, persist for weeks, months, or even years, and interfere with daily functioning, you may have Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder or PTSD.

What are the symptoms of PTSD?

It is normal to feel shock and/or distress after a traumatic event. However, most people feel better after a few weeks. Sometimes, trauma can cause difficulties with your daily life, including trusting people, looking after yourself or even keeping a steady job. It can make you vulnerable to developing mental and physical health problems if not treated. For some people, experiencing trauma can lead to PTSD. 


PTSD causes three main groups of symptoms: 

  • Reliving the event. This can include, but not limited to, nightmares, flashbacks, intrusive thoughts and physical symptoms such as pain or nausea. 

  • Avoiding people, places or things that remind you of the traumatic event. You may also try to distract yourself with work or hobbies, and try not to talk about what happened. 

  • Feeling on edge. You might be easily startled and feel you’re constantly on alert for danger. This is referred to as Hypervigilance. You may experience feelings of anxiousness, irritability or anger which can make it difficult to concentrate or sleep. 


PTSD can also be grouped into four main categories: intrusive memories, avoidance, hyperarousal, and negative changes in mood.


Intrusive thoughts 


Those with PTSD may experience recurring, unwanted distressing memories of the traumatic event. They may experience flashbacks in which they are reliving the traumatic event as if it was occurring again. Nightmares and upsetting dreams can be common as well. Reminders of the traumatic event can cause severe emotional distress or physical reactions in an individual with PTSD.




A person with PTSD may avoid thinking or talking about the traumatic event. They may also avoid people, places, activities, or other things that remind them of the event.


Negative changes in mood and cognition


Negative thoughts and feelings are a component of PTSD. The individual may hold distorted beliefs about themselves or others; feel fear, horror, anger, guilt, or shame; and have depressive symptoms. For example, the individual may have less interest in activities they once enjoyed, or feel hopeless, sad, or angry. Those with PTSD may also have memory problems, including an inability to remember important details of the trauma they experienced.


Hyperarousal and hyper-reactivity


People with PTSD may be easily startled – flinching severely to a loud noise or an accidental touch. They may always feel ‘on guard,’ constantly monitoring the environment for danger.  They may have trouble concentrating or sleeping. They may also have irritable or angry outbursts, acting out in reckless or destructive ways.


It’s important to note that these symptoms can also coexist with other mental illnesses.  PTSD frequently co-occurs with other psychiatric disorders such as depression, obsessive-compulsive disorder, or substance abuse, which can make symptoms more severe.


What are the treatment options for PTSD?

While there’s no cure for PTSD, proper diagnosis, treatment, and management can help people cope with symptoms and live full and productive lives. Treatments for PTSD can involve a combination of behavioral/psychotherapy and medication. People with PTSD will need to work with our mental health professionals to determine the best treatment options for their particular needs and goals. 


There are many types of psychotherapy options for PTSD. The overall goal of therapy in PTSD is to offer a safe and supportive environment for patients to work on improving symptoms, teach patients how to deal with the disorder, and boost their self-esteem.


Cognitive Behavioral Therapy:

Most PTSD therapies can be considered cognitive-behavioral therapy or CBT. CBT works on changing thought patterns that are disturbing one’s life. CBT for PTSD may include talking through traumas, focusing on where fears come from, or working on developing coping mechanisms to deal with the stress from the traumatic event.


PTSD can be scary and confusing for individuals and their loved ones, but recovery is attainable. Allowing the symptoms to interfere with daily functioning and cause other problems is perhaps the biggest risk associated with untreated PTSD. Many established and experimental therapies are available and can help individuals live normal lives, less encumbered by the devastating symptoms of PTSD. 

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