Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is a condition that is caused by a reaction to extreme stressors that posed the threat of death or extreme injury. Post traumatic stressors can include major car accidents, traumatic physical injuries, physical or sexual assault, violence, natural disasters, terrorism or domestic violence and military combat or war. Those who suffer from PTSD can be a victim or witness to these stressors, and have a belief during these stressors they were going to die or their life was in danger.
According to the National Institute of Mental Health, About 3.6 % or nearly 9 million Americans 18 years and older suffer from post-traumatic disorder symptoms. Women are significantly more likely to experience PTSD than men. Young children can also develop PTSD, and the symptoms are different from those of adults. Young children lack the ability to convey some aspects of their experience therefore behavior is often a better clue than words (e.g. clinging to parents) and developmental achievements may be impacted.
PTSD symptoms often co-exist with other conditions such as substance use disorders, depression and anxiety.
- Symptoms of PTSD generally fall into these broad categories:Re-experiencing type symptoms, such as recurring, involuntary and intrusive distressing memories, which can include flashbacks of the trauma, bad dreams and intrusive thoughts.Avoidance, which can include staying away from certain places or objects that are reminders of the traumatic event. A person might actively avoid a place or person that might activate overwhelming symptoms.Cognitive and mood symptoms, which can include trouble recalling the event, negative thoughts about one’s self. A person may also feel numb, guilty, worried or depressed and have difficulty remembering the traumatic event. Cognitive symptoms can in some instances extend to include out-of-body experiences or feeling that the world is “not real” (De-realization).Arousal symptoms, such as hypervigilance. Examples might include being intensely startled by stimuli that resembles the trauma, trouble sleeping or outbursts of anger.
PTSD can occur at any age and is directly associated with exposure to trauma. There are certain risk factors associated with development of PTSD. Risk factors can include prior experiences of trauma, history of mental disorders such as anxiety, depression or substance abuse, jobs what increases risk to traumatic events, such as first responders, medical personnel and lacking an emphatic support system.
Symptoms of PTSD usually begin within three months after experiencing or being exposed to a traumatic event. Occasionally, symptoms may emerge years afterward. For a diagnosis of PTSD, symptoms must last more than one month. Symptoms of depression, anxiety or substance abuse often accompany PTSD. First step is a detailed medical evaluation with physical exam and laboratory test to identify any medical condition which can lead to these symptoms. Once medical conditions are ruled out, a diagnosis of PTSD can be established.
Both medication and psychotherapy in conjunction with other self-management strategies and support animals have been shown to be effective in helping reduce symptoms of PTSD.
Psychotherapy: such as cognitive processing therapy or group therapy, Cognitive behavioral therapy, individual therapy and exposure therapy.
Medications, Anti-Anxiety, Anti-depressants, short term use of sleep aids.
Self-management strategies, such as self-soothing and mindfulness, relaxation techniques, exercise, walking, peer discussion and support.
Service animals: especially dogs, can help soothe some of the symptoms of PTSD.
Someone with ptsd may have additional disorders, as well as thoughts of or attempts at suicide