Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)

What is PTSD?

Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is an anxiety disorder that can occur following the experience or witnessing of a traumatic event. Symptoms may include disturbing recurring memories of the event, flashbacks, intense feelings of distress, increased arousal (e.g., difficulty sleeping), and avoidance behavior. The disorder was first described in 1980 by the American psychiatrist Robert J. Lifton and the late Canadian psychiatrist Richard M. Eichberg, and is now viewed as a clinical diagnosis by the United States Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) and the US Department of Defense (DOD).

PTSD develops when a person has experienced or witnessed an event that involves actual or threatened death or serious injury as well as the fear that one’s self or others will be harmed.

Symptoms and Warning Signs of PTSD

PTSD is can happen to anyone that experiences a highly stressful event such as active combat, assault or abuse survivors. Signs and symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) include:
• Nightmares.
• Flashbacks.
• Intrusive memories.
• Problems concentrating or thinking clearly.
• Avoiding places, people or activities that remind them of the trauma they have experienced or witnessed.

Symptoms of PTSD make it hard for people to cope with their feelings.
• Anger.
• Guilt or shame.
• Feeling alone, cut off from others or alienated even from family and friends.
• Fear that they are always in danger, even at home or among family and friends.
• Feeling helpless, hopeless, depressed, sad or numb.

PTSD Treatment

Treatment of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder can be extremely helpful in helping a person cope with the symptoms. Treatment is often done in individual or group therapy.

Sensory-based desensitization training
A psychotherapeutic technique that teaches people with PTSD how to re-experience their trauma in a productive and positive manner. It seeks to help the person cope with the trauma by decreasing their fear, anxiety and avoidance of stimuli that reminds them of their trauma experience. EMDR is a form of sensory desensitization.

Cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT)
CBT uses cognitive (behavioral) and behavioral (cognitive) techniques to help people with problems within their relationships, work or school. CBT is effective in treating many complex problems that result from complex trauma. CBT also provides options for helping children suffering from trauma- related problems caused by parental stress. Some research suggests that CBT may be more effective in treating trauma-related disorders than traditional therapies.

What happens if PTSD is left untreated?
For people who do not get treatment or who don’t recover completely from treatment, emotional and physical effects of PTSD can be long lasting. People with PTSD may:
• Have trouble sleeping and concentrating.
• Become isolated and unable to enjoy life.
• Be depressed and irritable.
• Use drugs (alcohol or drugs) to numb the pain.

• Have more health problems than other people their age—including depression, heart disease, high blood pressure, ulcers and obesity.

If you believe you or someone you know is suffering from PTSD , you can access resources through the VA, local counseling centers, and social services.

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