Understanding PTSD

After people experience something traumatic, they can develop a mental health condition called Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). This disorder can cause symptoms such as anger, avoidance, and flashbacks. Although many people associate PTSD with combat veterans, people from all walks of life can develop the disorder.

In fact, about 7.7 million adults in the United States live with PTSD. Sometimes these patients also live with anxiety, depression, or substance abuse disorder. Sadly, many people with PTSD feel as though there is no hope for healing. However, mental health professionals can significantly improve the lives of people with PTSD through therapy, medication, and other treatment methods.

Kinds of PTSD

Professionals divide PTSD into four distinct types:

  • Avoidance: People with avoidance PTSD completely avoid anything that even remotely relates to the original incident that triggered PTSD.
  • Intrusive memories: These patients experience recurrent thoughts and intense, realistic flashbacks to the triggering event.
  • Changes in physical and emotional reactions: People with this category of PTSD go through both emotional and physical changes that are drastic.
  • Negative changes in thinking and mood: This type of PTSD causes people to focus solely on the negative things in life.

Some people with PTSD have signs of two or more types of the disorder. Some kinds of triggers tend to results in specific types of PTSD.

What Causes PTSD?

Witnessing or being the victim of a traumatic event is typically the cause of PTSD. Traumatic life events can be almost anything, but a few common examples include:

  • Physical violence
  • Sexual violence
  • Robbery or mugging
  • Vehicle accidents
  • Natural disaster
  • War
  • Terror attacks
  • Sudden death of a loved one
  • Domestic abuse
  • Mass shootings

It’s crucial for people with PTSD to avoid comparing their trauma with another person’s experiences. There is no traumatic event that is “not bad enough” to warrant going without treatment. Each person with PTSD is unique and counselors treat them all with dignity.

Symptoms of PTSD

Because PTSD is unique in every person, two people can go through the exact same thing together and have different emotional reactions. As such, PTSD has many different symptoms, and people with the disorder may only have some of them. The common symptoms of PTSD are different for women, men, and veterans.

PTSD Symptoms in Women

In their lives, women are up to three times more likely to develop PTSD than their male peers. In women, the most common symptoms are:

  • Emotional catatonia
  • Avoidance of anything dealing with the trauma
  • Depression
  • Anxiety
  • Being easily startled

Possibly due to the types of symptoms they have or the types of trauma they are more likely to experience, women tend to be more reluctant to seek treatment for PTSD than men.

PTSD Symptoms in Men

When men develop PTSD, they are more likely to manifest these symptoms:

  • Impulsive.risky behavior
  • Substance abuse issues
  • Irritability

Men tend to seek treatment within a year of a traumatic event. However, anyone who shows these symptoms within three months of a trauma should seek help immediately.

Symptoms of PTSD in Veterans

PTSD was once called “shell shock,” and it is common in people who have served in wars. Veterans who develop PTSD often report the following symptoms:

  • Feeling emotionally shunted
  • Realistic flashbacks and nightmares
  • Trouble concentrating
  • Irritability
  • Feeling on guard at all times
  • Trouble sleeping
  • Being easily startled by loud, sudden noises

How to Treat PTSD

Treatment plans for people with PTSD may include therapy and/or medication. We advise patients to work closely with a mental health team to find the approach that works best for them.

PTSD Support Groups

PTSD can make people feel isolated, even from their loved ones. PTSD support groups lend a sense of community and solidarity. Participants in these sessions share their stories and learn from one another.

Individual PTSD Therapy

Types of talk therapy that can help people with PTSD include:

  • Cognitive Behavioral Therapy
  • Narrative Exposure Therapy
  • Prolonged Exposure
  • Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing
  • Cognitive Processing Therapy

Therapist-Led Trauma Group Therapy

In therapist-led group therapy, people who have gone through similar traumatic events come together with a counselor. The therapist asks participants to share their experiences, provides constructive feedback, and gives the group ideas for coping mechanisms.