Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD): A Complete Guide

Guide to PTSD : What is post traumatic stress disorder?

Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD): A Complete Guide

June 6, 2023

As a psychiatric condition, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) can arise in individuals who have experienced or witnessed a traumatic event. This event may have been emotionally or physically harmful or life-threatening.

Recognizing the presence of PTSD in individuals is important due to its profound impact on their mental and emotional well-being. Those with PTSD often struggle with daily functioning, relationships, and overall quality of life. The symptoms can be debilitating, interfering with work, social interactions, and overall enjoyment of life.

Furthermore, if left untreated, PTSD can lead to other complications, such as developing mental health disorders (like depression and anxiety) and substance abuse. Tragically, untreated PTSD also increases the risk of self-harm and suicide.

What is Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)?

When talking about PTSD meaning, it is a mental condition that the person develops after a series of mental trauma or events. The events mainly include accidents, disasters, physical or sexual assault, or other life-threatening situations. The symptoms get characterized by a series of traumatic events. This stress possibly affects the individual’s personal relationships and overall well-being.

What are the Common Symptoms of PTSD?

Individuals with PTSD typically exhibit four main types of difficulties:

Re-experiencing Symptoms

This involves reliving the traumatic event through recurring unwanted memories, flashbacks, or vivid nightmares. Anxiety, sweating, heart palpitations, and panic are common reactions to the sensation.

Avoidance Symptoms

Those with PTSD may avoid reminders of the traumatic event, including thoughts, feelings, people, places, activities, or situations that trigger memories associated with the event. They may feel emotionally numb, empty, or detached from their surroundings.

Hyperarousal Symptoms

Hyperarousal is indicated by being overly alert or “wound up.” It can manifest as irritability, difficulty sleeping, lack of concentration, easily becoming startled, and constant vigilance for signs of danger.

Negative Cognitions and Mood

Individuals with PTSD also experience negative changes in their feelings and thoughts. These may include feelings of anger, fear, guilt, emotional numbness, detachment, or developing beliefs such as “I’m bad” or “The world is unsafe.” They may also feel disconnected from others.

Prevalence and Risks of PTSD

No matter what age, gender, or background, anyone can have PTSD. The National Institute of Mental Health reports estimate that approximately 7-8% of the population will experience PTSD at some point. 

Likewise, WebMD reports that around 3.6% of adults (about 5.2 million people) have PTSD in a given year, and an estimated 7.8 million Americans will develop PTSD at some point, including adults and children with trauma issues.

The risk of developing PTSD, however, is increased by certain factors. These include:

  • Experiencing physical or sexual assault
  • Intense helplessness
  • Encountering unexpected traumatic events
  • Having previous traumatic experiences involving helplessness or danger

Additionally, a history of mental health conditions, lack of social support, and the intensity of the traumatic event can further elevate the risk of developing PTSD.

What are some Causes and Triggers of PTSD?

The events that can cause PTSD vary from person to person. Numerous harmful or life-threatening events may contribute to the development of PTSD, including:

  • Involvement in a car crash
  • Experiencing rape or sexual assault
  • Enduring abuse, harassment, or bullying targeting one’s identity
  • Being kidnapped or held hostage
  • Encountering violence, whether in combat, during a terrorist attack, or through other acts of assault
  • Witnessing others being harmed or killed, including in the line of duty (secondary trauma)
  • Working in professions that expose individuals to distressing situations, such as emergency services or armed forces
  • Surviving natural disasters or pandemics
  • Traumatic childbirth as a mother or witnessing a traumatic birth as a partner
  • Experiencing the loss of someone close under distressing circumstances
  • Receiving treatment in a mental health facility or being sectioned
  • Being diagnosed with a life-threatening condition

Diagnosing and Assessing PTSD

A traumatic event usually does not trigger PTSD until one month later. When symptoms are present, a medical professional initiates an evaluation by conducting a comprehensive medical history and physical examination. Although there are no specific lab tests for diagnosing PTSD, doctors may perform various tests to rule out physical illnesses.

In the absence of a physical illness, a referral to a psychiatrist, psychologist, or other mental health professional may be appropriate. These professionals employ specialized interview and assessment tools to evaluate individuals for PTSD or other psychiatric conditions. Several indicators indicate that a person has PTSD, including reported symptoms and functional impairments. The doctor determines whether the symptoms and level of dysfunction meet the criteria for diagnosing PTSD, which requires symptoms lasting more than one month.

Possible Treatments and Medications for PTSD

The primary goals of PTSD treatment are to reduce emotional and physical symptoms, improve daily functioning, and assist individuals in effectively managing the event that triggered the disorder. Treatment for PTSD may involve psychotherapy (counseling), medication, or a combination of both.

1. Medication:

It is common to prescribe antidepressants to treat PTSD and anxiety symptoms. There are several medications in this category, such as citalopram (Celexa), fluvoxamine (Luvox), fluoxetine (Prozac), paroxetine (Paxil), and sertraline (Zoloft). Atypical antipsychotics like aripiprazole (Abilify) and quetiapine (Seroquel), as well as tricyclic antidepressants like amitriptyline (Elavil), and isocarboxazid (Doxepin), may also be used. Certain blood pressure medicines, like prazosin for nightmares, clonidine (Catapres) for sleep, and propranolol (Inderal) to minimize the formation of traumatic memories, may be prescribed to control specific symptoms.

2. Psychotherapy:

Psychotherapy for PTSD aims to help individuals acquire skills to manage symptoms and develop coping mechanisms. Therapists also educate the person and their family about the disorder and address the fears associated with the traumatic event. Various psychotherapy approaches are used to treat PTSD, including cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT), prolonged exposure therapy, psychodynamic therapy, family therapy, group therapy, and Eye Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR).

Self-care and Coping Strategies for PTSD

Healing from PTSD is a gradual, ongoing process that doesn’t happen overnight, and traumatic memories may never completely disappear. Nonetheless, the following can be effective in starting the healing journey and moving forward:

1. Challenging your sense of helplessness: Overcoming the feeling of helplessness is crucial for overcoming PTSD. Acknowledge your strengths and coping skills that can support you during challenging times.

2. Engaging in physical activity: Exercise releases endorphins, improves mood, and helps the nervous system transition from the immobilization stress response associated with PTSD. Focusing on the body and its sensations during movement can be particularly helpful.

3. Seeking support from others: PTSD can lead to feelings of disconnection, making you withdraw from social activities and loved ones. Maintain connections with people and activities that bring you support and comfort.

4. Adopting a healthy lifestyle: The symptoms of PTSD affect the body, so taking care of yourself is essential. Incorporate relaxation techniques into your routine, maintain a balanced and nutritious diet, avoid drugs and alcohol, and ensure sufficient sleep.

Consult with Experts at New Era Rehab for PTSD Treatment in Connecticut

The New Era Rehab is available to help. If your family members or you or even your close friends need help with PTSD counseling in Connecticut, New Era Rehab is available to help. For consultations or inquiries, please reach out to us!

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