Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) is a type of anxiety disorder that develops in some people after they have experienced or witnessed a traumatic event such as an accident, a crime, a natural disaster, or combat situations. Some people are also diagnosed with PTSD after a friend or family member experiences danger or harm. In addition, the sudden, unexpected death of a loved one can also cause PTSD.
Individuals with PTSD may relive the event in their minds by having intrusive memories, flashbacks, and/or nightmares. In addition, people who experience PTSD may avoid things that remind them of the trauma and may experience very intense anxious feelings that they did not feel before the event, which often interferes with their ability to function in a way they would like.
Obtaining professional post-traumatic stress disorder treatment can help reduce the number of negative effects associated with PTSD.
PTSD’S ASSOCIATED DISORDERS
Some common disorders that can co-occur with PTSD include:
- Substance abuse
- Personality disorders
- Other anxiety disorders
- Psychotic Disorders
- Eating Disorders
- Bipolar Disorder
There are many symptoms associated with PTSD. They can be grouped into three main categories:
PTSD RE-EXPERIENCING SYMPTOMS
- Flashbacks (reliving the trauma over and over)
- Frightening thoughts
PTSD AVOIDANCE SYMPTOMS
- Staying away from places, events, or objects that are reminders of the experience
- Feeling emotionally numb
- Feeling strong guilt, depression, or worry
- Losing interest in activities that were enjoyable in the past
- Having trouble remembering the dangerous event
PTSD HYPERAROUSAL SYMPTOMS
- Being easily startled
- Feeling tense or “on edge”
- Having difficulty sleeping, and/or having angry outbursts.
It is very natural, after a life threatening or dangerous event, for people to experience many of these symptoms. This is called acute stress disorder and reflects a short-term reaction to a very frightening event. For many, these symptoms go away after a few weeks. However, if the symptoms last more than a few weeks and become an ongoing problem, the individual may be diagnosed with PTSD. Sometimes, people who are diagnosed with PTSD did not show any symptoms for weeks or months following the traumatic event.
CAUSES OF PTSD
Any life-threatening event or an event that significantly and severely compromises the physical or emotional wellbeing of an individual or causes extreme fear may cause PTSD. In addition, some people experience PTSD after a friend experiences danger or is harmed or if there is a sudden, unexpected death of a loved one.
COMMONALITY OF PTSD
Studies suggest that approximately 5 million people suffer from PTSD in any one year. There is a lifetime prevalence of 7-30%.
DIAGNOSIS OF PTSD
Diagnosing PTSD can be difficult because individuals often come into the therapy office complaining of symptoms other than the anxiety related symptoms associated with the traumatic experience (e.g., substance abuse or addiction, depression). Thus, it is imperative for the practitioner to do a thorough evaluation of a client’s family, medical, mental health, and relational history.
The actual diagnosis of PTSD is sometimes done through an interview with a clinician during the course of therapy and sometimes this is done through more comprehensive psychological evaluation (to rule out other potential issues). Often a therapist will ask many questions throughout the evaluation process (whether it is simply an interview or a more formal psychological evaluation) that assesses a client’s history of symptoms.
The symptoms of posttraumatic stress disorder may look very different in children and teens than the symptoms look in adults.
Post traumatic stress disorder treatment often combines therapy and psychoeducation (helping individuals understand the diagnosis and symptoms). PTSD treatment may also explore the possibility of medication management with a psychiatrist. In addition to addressing the symptoms in talk therapy, therapists can help clients who are diagnosed with PTSD learn practical coping skills to deal with what feels like very intense symptoms.
For successful PTSD treatment, it is very important to see a mental health professional that has training and experience working with individuals diagnosed PTSD. When appropriate, family members may be included in therapy to provide education around the disorder and to help them develop skills to help their loved one.
Based on the individual’s needs our therapists design effective treatment, consultation and assessment strategies pulling from cognitive-behavioral, interpersonal, systems-focused, and insight oriented approaches.
If you would like to meet or talk with one of our psychologists or therapists about PTSD treatment, call us at (515) 727-1338 or fill out our online form to request an appointment and one of our staff will contact you.