What Is Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)? | Causes, Symptoms, & Treatment
Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is considered a mental health and anxiety disorder. When a person experiences a life-threatening or traumatic event, they can develop PTSD symptoms that affect one’s daily life.
This serious mental health disorder requires treatment. For caregivers with family members who suffer from PTSD and do not seek treatment, consider starting a conversation about the benefits of therapy and other mental health treatment options.
Causes Of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)
According to the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH), traumatic experiences can occur with soldiers on the battlefield causing many combat veterans to develop PTSD. However, the disorder can also affect anyone at any age who has experienced a traumatic event.
Some of the risk factors for developing PTSD include:
- surviving a natural disaster such as a tornado or earthquake
- sexual assault as an adolescent or adult
- emotional or physical abuse such as domestic violence
- witnessing or surviving an accident
- family history of mental illness
- losing a relationship, home, or job
Additionally, a person who continually lived through a traumatic experience such as being bullied in school or being abused at home may develop complex PTSD.
Symptoms Of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)
The symptoms of PTSD range in severity and some may experience fewer symptoms than others. As stated by MedlinePlus, there are a variety of PTSD symptoms which are divided into four types of symptoms.
To avoid traumatic memories, a person may avoid people, situations, or places related to the traumatic event which took place. Those with PTSD who experience avoidance symptoms may avoid:
- objects related to the event
- cities where the event took place
- people involved in the event
- activities (such as driving a car or flying on a plane)
- thinking about the trauma by always staying busy
Arousal & Reactivity Symptoms
PTSD may cause a person to have arousal or reactivity symptoms. The brain is on the lookout for danger, constantly recognizing items, places, or people as threats, even when they are not actually threatening.
A person may feel jittery and experience tremors. Other symptoms include:
- trouble sleeping
- being startled easily
- angry outbursts
- stress reactions
- feeling on edge
- having the constant perception of a threat
These symptoms cause a person to be reminded of the trauma they faced, forcing them to re-experience the fear again. A flashback is a re-experiencing symptom which is when a person is reliving the traumatic memories.
Continuous scary or harmful thoughts may also occur, as can night terrors or disturbances.
Cognition & Mood Symptoms
PTSD symptoms may impair cognition and cause changes in mood such as:
- difficulty concentrating
- negative thoughts about one’s life
- serious feelings of depression such as suicidal thoughts
- intrusive memories
- lack of interest in hobbies or activities once enjoyed
- memory problems
- experiencing feelings of shame or guilt
The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) states PTSD symptoms may last from months to years. Other physical symptoms include:
- stomach pain
Treatment Options For Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder
To determine the diagnosis of PTSD, your healthcare provider will learn about the symptoms you’re experiencing. Exhibited symptoms can mimic other mental health disorders, so other conditions must be ruled out before PTSD treatment can begin.
If you or a loved one are diagnosed with PTSD by a mental health professional, you can get help by utilizing the various treatment options offered to you.
To help ease your mental health problems, a variety of therapy options are available for you to consider. Trauma-focused care helps you acknowledge the event that occurred.
Exposure therapy is an option for those frightened by a specific object. Your doctor may show you photos or help you become more comfortable with the object.
Psychotherapy comes in many forms such as support groups and mobile apps. Certain mental health apps allow you to monitor your PTSD symptoms and provide accountability for maintaining mental health treatment.
Other forms of talk therapy include cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) and cognitive processing therapy.
A more extensive therapy option which can be beneficial is Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR). Through this process, you will recall an event while focusing on an external stimulus such as moving lights or buttons.
Consult with your doctor to determine the type of medication you require, as it is different from person to person.
Common antidepressants prescribed for anxiety disorders are selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) and serotonin and norepinephrine reuptake inhibitors (SNRIs).
If a person does not respond well with these types of antidepressants, benzodiazepines may be prescribed. Benzodiazepines such as alprazolam (Xanax), Klonopin (clonazepam), and Ativan (lorazepam) can be effective for those requiring the management of panic attacks.
Those concerned with their well-being may need immediate assistance such as inpatient care or outpatient care. If a person is suffering from a mental health disorder and struggles with substance use, they may require dual diagnosis treatment at a residential treatment center.
To learn about our treatment options, please contact us today.
National Alliance on Mental Illness - Post Traumatic Stress Disorder
National Institute of Mental Health - PTSD
National Institute of Mental Health - PTSD
National Library of Medicine: MedlinePlus - PTSD
National Library of Medicine: MedlinePlus- Post Traumatic Stress Disorder
Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration - Post Traumatic Stress Disorder
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