What is Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)?
Post-traumatic stress disorder, commonly known and referred to as PTSD is a mental health condition that is triggered by either experiencing or witnessing an event that was traumatic, terrifying, life threatening, or threatened serious harm to oneself or a loved one. For example, many veterans report experiencing PTSD symptoms following exposure to combat as did many of the survivors and service individuals involved in the 9/11 attacks. Non-military individuals can experience PTSD as well and the condition can be caused by the witnessing or being involved in a car accident, witnessing or experiencing extreme violence, childhood neglect and physical abuse, sexual assault, experiencing a natural disaster, mugging or robbery, and so on.
Many people who go through traumatic events have difficulty adjusting and coping for a while, but they don’t develop PTSD – with time and good self-care, they usually get better. If symptoms persist, however, and the begin to get worse, last for months, or begin to interfere with everyday living, PTSD may exist.
What are the Symptoms of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder?
In many instances PTSD symptoms will start within three months of the traumatic event; however sometimes the symptoms don’t appears until years after the event. Symptoms often cause significant problems in social or work situations and in relationships. The most common symptoms of PTSD reported include:
- Recurrent, unwanted distressing memories of the traumatic event.
- Flashbacks of the traumatic event or reliving the traumatic event as if it were happening again.
- Upsetting dreams or nightmares about the traumatic event.
- Severe emotional distress or physical reactions to something that reminds you of the event.
- Avoiding places, activities or people that remind you of the traumatic event.
- Negative changes in thinking and/or mood that can include negative feelings about yourself or other people, feeling emotionally numb, and/or difficulty maintaining close relationships.
- Changes in emotional reactions that might include irritability, angry outbursts or aggressive behavior, overwhelming guilt or shame, and self-destructive behavior like drinking too much or driving too fast.
The intensity of symptoms can vary over time. Some people report experiencing more symptoms when stressed in general while other report only experiencing symptoms when they run into reminders of what they went through.
Other Concerns With PTSD
PTSD can disrupt your whole life: your job, your relationships, your health, and your enjoyment of everyday activities. Having PTSD can also increase your risk of other mental health problems, such as:
- Depression and anxiety
- Issues with drugs or alcohol use
- Eating disorders
- Suicidal thoughts and actions
When to Reach Out For Help
If you have disturbing thoughts and feelings about a traumatic event for more than a month, if they’re severe, or if you feel you’re having trouble getting your life back under control, talk to your health care professional. Get treatment as soon as possible to help prevent PTSD symptoms from getting worse.
For further information and behavioral health resources, go to csifdl.org.