What Is Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder?
The effects of trauma can be devastating, both to the affected person and to those who love them. Trauma can be physical, mental, emotional, or sexual. It can result from physical injury or illness, sexual abuse, or incidents such as divorce, death, or natural disaster. Trauma can also be a natural part of living with a terminal illness, such as cancer.
So, what is Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder?
PTSD or Post-traumatic stress disorder is a mental health condition that can affect people after a traumatic experience. Symptoms of PTSD include intense fear, avoidance of situations, and problems with focusing. Unfortunately, PTSD is not well understood, and many people are misdiagnosed with other conditions. “Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) is a form of anxiety that develops after individual experiences a very traumatic event, such as a car accident, sexual assault, or terrorist attack, resulting in total or partial loss of consciousness, or the threat of death.”
PTSD is a mental health condition that occurs after a traumatic event. The symptoms of PTSD include feelings of fear, avoidance, hypervigilance, mood swings, and other changes in behavior. PTSD is sometimes referred to as PTSD-Related Emotional Problems or PTSD-REPs.
Sufferers often have terrifying nightmares and vivid flashbacks of the event. They may feel emotionally numb and disconnected from other people or the world around them.
The events that cause PTSD cannot be completely listed, as it can occur due to any life-threatening situation such as war, rape, assault, a natural disaster, or an accident. An estimated 8.3% of Americans aged 18 and older, or approximately 18.8 million people, have been diagnosed with PTSD in one or more of the following areas: the experience of seeing or hearing something frightening and upsetting; being in a dangerous or life-threatening situation; being threatened or attacked by a person or animal, suffering serious physical injury, or enduring a sexual or physical attack.
The symptoms fall into three categories:
Re-experiencing the traumatic event (flashbacks/flashforwards)
Flashbacks & Flash-forwards are some of the most common themes in PTSD, even though it is not a frequent topic of discussion. When a traumatic event occurs, you may experience a flashback, meaning it feels like it is happening over again. Flashbacks are usually short-lived, occurring while the person is awake. Flashforwards are the opposite; they occur while a person is asleep. Such incidents can make it quite difficult for a person to resume normal life after experiencing the trauma.
Avoiding situations that remind them of the events (intrusive memories)
The most common one is intrusive flashbacks, which happen in dreams, daydreams, and nightmares. In these intrusive memories, a person feels as though they are reliving the event and may even feel physically ill. But another symptom could be avoiding any situation that is similar to the circumstances of their accident—examples include avoiding crowded places if that is where they experienced a terrorist attack; not being able to travel in a car or a plane if an accident had occurred in a similar vehicle; or anything that remotely reminds the person of their traumatic event.
Hyperarousal (being easily startled, feeling on edge, and being easily angered).
Hyperarousal is a form of anxiety related to trauma. It’s also known as being easily startled, feeling on edge, and being easily angered. Research suggests people with PTSD have persistent hyperarousal that can interfere with their ability to live a normal life.
How long does post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) last?
Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is an anxiety disorder that’s still fairly misunderstood. For many, PTSD is an unfortunate but non-existent condition. But for others, PTSD is a very real, serious condition that can profoundly affect their lives. PTSD involves a person experiencing a traumatic event, with symptoms that can last for months, or even years. While the symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder may be similar to those of other anxiety disorders, some key differences distinguish PTSD from other anxiety disorders.
What is the treatment for Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder?
There are no specific diagnostic criteria for PTSD, and there is no cure. The best treatment for PTSD is an integrative approach that includes psychotherapy, medication if needed, and counseling.
Naming a mental health condition is a big deal. It’s a big deal because it’s an acknowledgment that something is wrong with you and an important step in the journey towards recovery. Those with PTSD may not be comfortable admitting to it and may require plenty of support. If you are one of them, know that you have all the help you need. If you know one of them, please offer them support in whatever way possible.