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Post Traumatic Stress Disorder and Trauma

It is inevitable. At one time or another, we will experience something traumatic. Often, these traumatic events are unforeseen. Regardless of whether they begin and end in an instant or happen over time, the effects can be long-lasting.  Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is characterized by anxiety from previous traumatic events and can affect anyone who is predisposed at any stage in their lives.  The most common symptoms of PTSD include nightmares, flashbacks of the event, depression and increased irritability.

Post-traumatic stress disorder can affect anyone who is predisposed at any stage in their lives. Rape victims may experience reoccurring nightmares and relive the attack for years after the incident. It’s not uncommon for war veterans—especially those who have experienced combat—to have long-lasting anxiety, flashbacks or angry outbursts. Children who are trauma victims or witnesses of abuse may withdraw from friends, refuse to talk or experience frequent stomach aches.

According to the National Institute of Mental Health, post-traumatic stress disorder affects 7.7 million adults. However, women are more likely to develop PTSD than men. The symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder can range from mild to severe and usually begin within three months of the frightening ordeal.

There are four types of post-traumatic stress disorder:

Acute Stress Disorder

Symptoms appear within the first month of the trauma and last between two days and four weeks.

Acute Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder

Symptoms last for more than four weeks after the trauma.

Delay Onset Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder

Diagnosed when the signs and symptoms develop years after the traumatic event.

Chronic Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder

Symptoms last for more than three months, disappear for a few days, and then reappear. The degree of PTSD varies among individuals. Some people experience mild symptoms—such as irritability—while a dual diagnosis debilitates others. s That’s why it’s important to seek help from a qualified mental health professional to treat the post-traumatic stress disorder along with any co-occurring conditions, such as addiction, depression, or anxiety disorders to begin a full recovery.

Below is a list of some of the common signs and symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder:

  • Reliving the trauma
  • Unexplained fear
  • Low self-confidence
  • Anger
  • Frightening memories
  • Emotional numbness
  • Anxiety
  • Loss of interest in activities
  • Blackouts
  • Muscle aches
  • Phobias of people/places
  • Sleep problems
  • Emotional detachment
  • Family discord
  • Substance misuse
  • Flashbacks
  • Low self-esteem
  • Hyper-arousal
  • Easily startled
  • Nightmares
  • Anger
  • Depression
  • Parenting difficulties
  • Avoiding thoughts about the event
  • Violent outbursts
  • Irritability
  • Concentration problems
  • Marital discord
  • Obsessiveness
  • Memory problems surrounding the event

(Because these symptoms in and of themselves do not always indicate the presence of post-traumatic stress disorder, please contact your physician or mental health treatment provider in order to obtain an accurate diagnosis.)

Post-traumatic stress disorder can be managed successfully but must be individualized based on the causes and symptoms and is treated with a combination of the following treatments:

  • Cognitive Therapy to change how the victim thinks about the trauma
  • Exposure Therapy to desensitize the fear surrounding the memories
  • Eye movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR) to attempt to change how the victim reacts to memories of the trauma
  • Antidepressants and Other Medications to improve sleep and reduce anxiety and intrusive recollection of the traumatic event.
  • Group Therapy to gain new insight from others who have had similar experiences
  • Brief Psychodynamic Psychotherapy to understand how past trauma affects present-day emotions
  • Family Therapy to help family members who are affected by the victim’s trauma

If you suspect that you or a loved one may have post-traumatic stress disorder, please contact a professional mental health provider for diagnosis and treatment.