Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is a psychiatric disorder that may occur in people who have experienced or witnessed a traumatic event. PTSD can affect anyone of any age group. PTSD affects people of all ages, not just those who served in the military. It has been referred to as “shell shock” during World War I and “combat fatigue” following World War II. Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) can strike anyone at any age after a traumatic event. Individuals with a history of abuse, such as sexual or physical assault, or those who have been subjected to violence in their homes or in war zones, are more likely to suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).
Just how common is post-traumatic stress disorder?
- According to the National Alliance on Mental Health (NAMI), PTSD affects 3.6 percent of the U.S. adult population — approximately 9 million individuals.
- About 37% of people with PTSD have symptoms that are considered severe.
- Women are significantly more likely to experience PTSD than men.
symptoms and behaviours of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)
Even though most people who have been through a traumatic event experience strong emotions such as anger, shock, anxiety, fear, and guilt, those who suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) have symptoms that last for over a month and are unable to function as well as they did before the triggering event happened. Even though the symptoms of PTSD can surface within a month of the traumatic event, sometimes they don’t appear until years after.
In many cases, the symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) are difficult to distinguish from those of other disorders such as substance use disorders, depression, and anxiety. A comprehensive medical evaluation with an individualised treatment plan laid out by a professional is the best way to move forward, but it’s imperative to familiarise yourself with the symptoms of PTSD so you can best understand the condition. You can also get started with PTSD assessments.
PTSD symptoms can be divided into four groups:
Post-traumatic stress disorder can present with a range of symptoms or behaviours that generally fall into four categories.
Intrusion: Intrusion occurs when something reminds you of the trauma and you feel that initial fear again. Examples include: flashbacks, nightmares, vivid, unpleasant memories of the event, and intense mental or physical distress when you think about the event.
Avoidance: Those who experience avoidance try to circumvent situations or people that trigger memories of what is causing the distress. If the traumatic event was, say, a car accident, the individual may decide to stop driving altogether. Those who suffer from avoidance are also more likely to try to keep their thoughts and feelings away from the source of their distress. They might make themselves overly busy to avoid thinking about what happened and their feelings. One can also experience avoidance by feeling emotionally numb or cut off from their feelings in general daily life.
Feeling on edge, easily startled, irritability, angry outbursts, and irresponsible, self-destructive behaviour are some examples of arousal and reactivity symptoms.
Cognition and mood: PTSD doesn’t always show itself in nightmares and outbursts, sometimes it appears in mood changes completely unrelated to the cause of the PTSD. The sudden onset of negative thoughts about oneself or the world, distorted notions of guilt and blame, or a diminished interest in once-pleasurable pursuits can all occur for a variety of reasons. They may have a hard time remembering the original traumatic events and feel increasingly detached from others as well as their emotions.
PTSD symptoms can last for weeks or months after a stressful event, but when they interfere with a person’s day-to-day activities, they may be a sign that they are severe and warrant the attention of a mental health professional.
Post-traumatic Stress Disorder Causes & Risk Factors
PTSD can develop as a result of witnessing or experiencing a traumatic event, or as a result of enduring a prolonged trauma. This can include a wide range of traumatic events, but not all people who experience traumatic events will develop PTSD.
According to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5), a person must have been exposed to “actual or threatened death, serious injury, or sexual violence” in order to be diagnosed with PTSD. The only other way to tell if an event is traumatic enough to cause post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is to consult a professional. It depends on the person’s interpretation of the event and how long the symptoms last.
Is there some underlying factor that makes one person more likely to develop PTSD while another who has been through the same trauma is able to cope with it and move on? There are a number of risk factors that make someone more likely to develop PTSD. PTSD may be more likely to develop in the presence of pre-existing mental health issues such as depression or anxiety. People who lack the emotional and social support of family and friends are more likely to suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).
According to recent findings, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) may have a genetic component. An extensive PTSD genetic study conducted by researchers at the University of California San Diego School of Medicine and over 130 other institutions as part of the Psychiatric Genomics Consortium has revealed that the disorder shares a strong genetic component with other mental illnesses. The conclusion of the study is that genetics accounts for 5-20 percent of the variability in PTSD risk following a traumatic event. While more research is needed, the study shows that people with these genes are more likely to develop post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) after experiencing a traumatic event. More research is needed. However, PTSD is a mental illness that can affect anyone, regardless of their ethnicity or socioeconomic status.
Types of PTSD Explained
Research has shown that there are what can be considered several different types of PTSD, depending on how symptoms present and trauma circumstances. Researchers are still investigating the symptoms of PTSD, which may necessitate a variety of therapeutic approaches.
A more recent classification of PTSD, dissociative PTSD is characterised by dissociative episodes rather than reactive episodes triggered by stress or trauma. Dissociative PTSD is more common and more severe than other forms of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), and it’s also more likely to be accompanied by depersonalization and derealization symptoms, as well as more severe early-life trauma. As a result, the physical and neurological symptoms of dissociative PTSD sufferers can be quite varied. The heart rate, prefrontal brain activation, and amygdala activation are all lower in people with PTSD with dissociative identity disorder.
Complex PTSD: Complex PTSD is also known as complicated PTSD and is the result of multiple traumas. Abuse, domestic violence, or repeated exposure to war are all risk factors for developing this form of PTSD. Dissociative disorders and borderline or antisocial personality disorder are frequently found in those who suffer from this type of PTSD. As a result, treatment for this type of PTSD can take much longer.
Comorbid PTSD: Comorbid PTSD is when an individual has more than one mental health concern and/or a substance use disorder in addition to PTSD. This type of post-traumatic stress disorder is very common. As previously mentioned, a large percentage of the population is afflicted by multiple mental health issues at the same time. If an individual is diagnosed with comorbid PTSD, it’s best to treat both mental health conditions at the same time. More often than not, the same treatments used for uncomplicated PTSD are used for those experiencing comorbid PTSD.
Post-traumatic Stress Disorder Treatment Options
When you have PTSD, it can feel like you’ll never get your life back to the way it was before, but know that your PTSD symptoms can be treated. Short- and long term psychotherapy and PTSD medications can help an individual overcome the symptoms of PTSD. However, it’s critical to keep in mind that we’re all unique. A treatment that works for one person may not work for another. In order to find the best treatment for you, you may have to try a few different approaches. It’s critical that you seek treatment from a PTSD-trained mental health professional, no matter what route you take.
Below are eight PTSD treatment options. Your mental health care provider may introduce any of these or a combination along with medication, based on your symptoms and experiences.
- Cognitive processing therapy (CPT): There are a few PTSD therapy options, and most of them fall under the umbrella of cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) (CBT). The idea is to change the thought patterns that are disturbing your life. Cognitive processing therapy is a specific type of CBT that focuses on how your traumatic event is perceived and how you tend to cope with the emotional and mental part of your experience. A common first step in therapy is to share your experiences and thoughts about a traumatic event with your therapist in order to better understand how it has affected your life. Then you write in detail about what happened. This process helps you examine how you think about the trauma you experienced and figure out new ways to live with it.
- Prolonged exposure therapy (PE): This is another form of CBT that relies more heavily on behavioural therapy techniques to help individuals with PTSD gradually approach their trauma related memories, situations and emotions. The main goal of exposure therapy for PTSD is to focus on exposures to help you stop avoiding trauma reminders.
- Cognitive behaviour therapy (CBT): This type of therapy is commonly used by people with PTSD. Therapists typically centre their treatment around trauma-focused cognitive behaviour therapy, which means they focus on the traumatic event(s) that caused the PTSD. In order to help patients feel better, CBT focuses on identifying, understanding, and altering their behaviour.
- Stress inoculation training (SIT): With this form of CBT, you focus on changing how you deal with the stress from the event that is causing the PTSD. You work with a healthcare professional to learn breathing techniques and other ways to stop negative thoughts from taking over your body and mind. SIT works to reduce anxiety by teaching coping skills to deal with PTSD-accompanying stress.
- Eye movement desensitisation and reprocessing (EMDR): EMDR is a relatively new treatment that asks patients to pay attention to either a sound or a back and forth movement while thinking about the trauma memory.
- Present centred therapy (PCT): This is a type of non-trauma focused treatment that centres around current issues rather than directly processing the trauma that is causing the PTSD. It involves increasing adaptive responses to current life stressors and difficulties that are directly or indirectly related to trauma or PTSD symptoms.
- SSRI medications Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors, commonly known as SSRIs, are a type of medication usually prescribed to help with symptoms of depression and anxiety. SSRIs like Zoloft, Paxil, and Prozac are frequently prescribed to treat PTSD.
- Inhibitors of serotonin reuptake: SNRI medications, which inhibit the reuptake of serotonin and norepinephrine in the brain, are less commonly prescribed for post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Your mental health care provider can help determine which type of medication will work best for you.
People with PTSD can benefit from a combination of talk therapy and other treatments to better cope with their symptoms of anxiety and anger as well as the associated feelings of guilt and shame. This type of therapy can help process traumatic events and change how someone with PTSD reacts to their symptoms.