What is PTSD?


What Is PTSD?

PTSD, or Post Traumatic Stress Disorder occurs in some cases when people are exposed to a very stressful event, which is known as an extreme stress trigger. To be diagnosed with PTSD, they must continue to experience symptoms for at least one month after exposure to this trigger.

Research suggest that up to 70% of American adults have experienced at least one significant trauma during their lifetimes. Many of those people may subsequently have suffered from an emotional reaction known as posttraumatic stress disorder or PTSD. Further estimates suggest that 5 percent of the population currently lives with PTSD.

Who Experiences It?

Although women are twice as likely as men to develop PTSD, anyone who experiences an extremely traumatic event may develop post traumatic stress disorder. Examples of extreme stress triggers include:

  • Natural disasters
  • Serious accidents
  • Combat exposure
  • Child physical or sexual abuse or severe neglect
  • Witnessing traumatic events
  • Imprisonment/hostage/displacement as refugees
  • Torture
  • The sudden unexpected death of loved ones
  • Criminal assault or rape

Although other types of stress may be severe and can be quite upsetting, they typically do not result in PTSD. Such events might include the death of an elderly parent, divorce, or job loss.

What Are the Symptoms?

People living with PTSD typically experience three main types of symptoms according to the DSM-5.

1. They re-experience the traumatic event. This can manifest in vivid flashbacks while awake, exaggerated physical or emotional reactions to triggers that remind them of the event, or nightmares about the event.

2. The victim displays emotional numbing or avoidance. This can include avoidance, feelings of detachment, and loss of interest in activities that were once pleasurable. 

3. Increased arousal related to the event. This is typically indicated by outbursts of anger, irritability, difficulty concentrating, or displaying exaggerated startled responses. 

In addition to these symptoms, people with PTSD may face an array of other issues such as panic attacks, depression, suicidal thoughts, or substance abuse. However, with successful treatment, many of these symptoms will improve. 

What is the Treatment?

There are two primary types of treatment for PTSD: psychotherapy and medication. Some people are able to fully recover from post traumatic stress disorder using psychotherapy alone, but others need a combination of both treatments to achieve full recovery.

1. Psychotherapy alone is often best for people who experience mild symptoms, those who should not take medication due to pregnancy or because they are breastfeeding, and people who prefer not to take medication.

2. Medication may be a good option for individuals with severe symptoms or those who have lived with their symptoms for a long time. People who have additional psychiatric problems such as anxiety or depression may also require medication.