Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)

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Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)

What is PTSD?

PTSD is an abbreviation for Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder. This is a medical term used by mental health workers to classify a group of symptoms seen in some people who have experienced trauma at some point in the past. It is important to remember that not everyone who experiences trauma goes on to develop PTSD. In fact, most people who experience trauma will not develop symptoms of PTSD.

Call 866-DOC-LEON to talk with a specialist, and you can get scheduled to speak with a psychiatrist immediately to discuss PTSD or other symptoms.

What is Trauma?

Trauma is just something really scary.

Diving in a little deeper , as described by the American Psychiatric Association (APA) - in the context of PTSD, trauma is when you either personally experience, witness, or hear about a close one going through an event like a natural disaster, a serious accident, a terrorist attack, combat, sexual assault, or threats of death or violence.

Who gets PTSD?

The APA goes on to report that PTSD can occur at any age, to people of all backgrounds, affecting approximately 3.5% of adults in the USA. Women are twice as likely to experience PTSD.

Again, not everyone who experiences trauma will develop PTSD. However, many people who do not experience enough symptoms to be diagnosed with PTSD, do in fact have multiple symptoms related to PTSD. If you’ve experienced trauma and you are having difficulty dealing with the results of the trauma, you should speak with a mental health professional to discuss what’s been going on.

What are the signs and symptoms of PTSD?

The APA summarizes these symptoms as follows:

1. Intrusion: 

Intrusive thoughts such as repeated, involuntary memories; distressing dreams; or flashbacks of the traumatic event. Flashbacks may be so vivid that people feel they are re-living the traumatic experience or seeing it before their eyes.

2. Avoidance

Avoiding reminders of the traumatic event may include avoiding people, places, activities, objects and situations that may trigger distressing memories. People may try to avoid remembering or thinking about the traumatic event. They may resist talking about what happened or how they feel about it.

3. Alterations in cognition and mood: 

Inability to remember important aspects of the traumatic event, negative thoughts and feelings leading to ongoing and distorted beliefs about oneself or others (e.g., “I am bad,” “No one can be trusted”); distorted thoughts about the cause or consequences of the event leading to wrongly blaming self or other; ongoing fear, horror, anger, guilt or shame; much less interest in activities previously enjoyed; feeling detached or estranged from others; or being unable to experience positive emotions (depression, or a void of happiness or satisfaction).

4. Alterations in arousal and reactivity: 

Arousal and reactive symptoms may include being irritable and having angry outbursts; behaving recklessly or in a self-destructive way; being overly watchful of one's surroundings in a suspecting way; being easily startled; or having problems concentrating or sleeping.

Recognizing PTSD in myself or others:

The Veterans Administration has been at the forefront of PTSD treatment and research. The VA provides excellent resources to learn more about PTSD. You can watch this video, featuring many veterans describing all types of PTSD symptoms.

What are treatments for PTSD?

There are two types of treatment that are often used together for PTSD: medication and talk therapy. Depending on your individual symptoms and how bad those symptoms are, your therapist or psychiatrist may recommend a treatment plan targeted to your situation and your goals.

The National Institute of Mental Health describes in greater detail the approaches often used for medication and talk therapy.

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