Post Traumatic Stress Disorder

What is Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)?

Traumatic events can leave psychological scars in their wake. Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is a direct response to experiencing or witnessing a disturbing event. This includes violent personal attacks, abuse, accidents, and natural disasters. Not everyone who endures a traumatic event will be diagnosed with PTSD, as individuals experiencing the same situation may have different psychological reactions. Approximately 8% of the population will be diagnosed with PTSD in their lifetime.

The majority of people who live through trauma will have a period of adjustment while trying to reconcile their experience with the world around them. This can last for several days or weeks. PTSD occurs when this initial shock response becomes prolonged. Common signs of PTSD include flashbacks, sleep disturbances, and unusual changes in mood or demeanor. It can sometimes take months for the symptoms to start appearing and this delay may make it more difficult for the person or their family and friends to recognize that they are struggling with PTSD.

Identifying Common Symptoms

If you or a loved one experienced a stressful or traumatic event, it can be challenging to identify whether the response you are having to it is PTSD or not. This is primarily because of the lengthy delay between when the trauma occurs and when noticeable symptoms begin to manifest. This is particularly relevant for anyone with pre-existing mental health or physical conditions that may share similar symptoms.

Below are several common behavioral and psychological symptoms of PTSD. If you or a loved one experience one or more of these, you might want to speak with a healthcare professional.

Recurring intrusive thoughts, including flashbacks, dreams, or memories related to the traumatic event
Purposefully avoiding objects, people, or places that remind you of the event
Experiencing emotional numbness or a lack of interest in activities or subjects that previously excited you
Physical reactions including jumping, flinching, or screaming in response to unexpected noises or movements
Difficulty remembering the event or experiencing a distortion of the memories surrounding the event
Sleep disturbances including insomnia, night terrors, nightmares, or frequently waking during the night
Increased anxiety or fear responses to everyday social situations
Remaining constantly on alert and feeling in danger even in safe situations
Unusual emotional and physical isolation
Avoiding environments that remind you of the trauma

These symptoms may start immediately after the trauma or they may manifest months or even years later. In the majority of cases, people begin to notice signs of PTSD within three months. Delayed-onset PTSD takes place when symptoms do not start to manifest for at least six months.

What Causes PTSD?

The situations that may result in PTSD can vary significantly in degree and type. Violent and invasive events are more likely to cause PTSD, including the following:
  1. Sexual assault or rape
  2. Physical assault
  3. Injuries sustained during natural disasters or accidents
  4. Childhood neglect and abuse
  5. Experiencing extreme fear
  6. Living or working in a war-zone

Do I Have Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder?

If you believe you or a loved one may be suffering from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, our assessment may be a beneficial tool. Although the assessment can not be used as a definitive diagnosis, it can help to determine how many symptoms associated with PTSD a person may be facing.

We base our assessment questions on the criteria laid out by the fifth edition of The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5). Regardless to the results of the assessment, it is important to note that PTSD must be diagnosed by a trained medical professional.

Risk Factors

A study by the University of Tromsø in Norway reported that individuals who have previously been diagnosed with a psychological disorder are at a higher risk for developing PTSD. Women are also more likely to be diagnosed than men. The United States Department of Veteran Affairs reports that approximately 10% of women will develop PTSD in their lifetime compared to 4% of men.

The following factors also play a role in the development of PTSD:
  • Socioeconomic status
  • Previous traumatic experiences or history of abuse
  • Family history of PTSD
  • Absence of a support structure
  • Chronic stress

Treatment Options For PTSD

There are a wide variety of treatment options available that can be tailored to individual needs. Medication is often prescribed in tandem with talk therapy to provide relief for the physical symptoms. Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) is often used to process the memories and feelings associated with the trauma. Support groups can also provide validation and an understanding community, which can enhance the effects of one-on-one therapy. Several popular options for treating PTSD include the following:
  • Cognitive Behavior Therapy (CBT): This therapy focuses on the connection between thoughts and how they manifest in our behaviors. It can be used to help people with PTSD challenge negative thought patterns and associations (e.g., fear responses to objectively safe people and places).
  • Dialectical Behavioral Therapy (DBT): This therapy is geared towards changing negative thoughts and behavioral patterns and substituting them with positive, healthy ones. DBT is especially beneficial for individuals with PTSD who have also been diagnosed with Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD).
  • Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR): EMDR is a trauma processing technique that uses rhythmic eye movements to work through negative emotions and memories.
  • Cognitive Processing Therapy (CPT): This type of CBT involves focused sessions geared towards changing negative thought patterns related to the trauma. It increases objectivity and makes it easier to evaluate and respond to situations associated with the event.
  • Prolonged Exposure (PE): Sometimes, feelings and memories associated with trauma can be so overwhelming that they are avoided entirely. PE therapy is a way of addressing this by slowly working through emotions, memories, and other aspects of the trauma.

When to Get Help

A medical professional can provide a formal diagnosis and treatment options to help stop or lessen the PTSD symptoms that you may be experiencing. It is essential to reach out immediately if you or a loved one find yourself experiencing symptoms of PTSD that include intrusive suicidal or self-harming ideations.

PTSD and Recovery

Recovery from addiction is challenging and if you or someone you love is struggling with PTSD, reach out today for support. The dedicated team at Create Recovery is here to help you.