POSTTRAUMATIC STRESS DISORDER
Posttraumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) can develop following a stressful or traumatic event, such as physical or sexual assault, combat exposure, a serious accident, or a natural disaster. Individuals may directly experience the event or witness it. During the event, the individual typically experiences strong feelings of horror, helplessness or fear. PTSD was originally thought to arise as a result of war trauma and was referred to as "shell shock." We now know that this disorder can arise from many different types of traumatic events. Individuals can develop PTSD at any age, including childhood.
People can experience a traumatic event without developing PTSD. Some studies suggest that up to 70% of the U.S. population will be exposed to traumatic stressors. A subset of individuals will develop Acute Stress Disorder, a more immediate reaction to a stressful event in which symptoms only last for 1 month. Symptoms of PTSD typically develop within 1 month, although some do not develop the disorder for a year. Other individuals develop symptoms of PTSD, but not the full-blown disorder. Certain groups of individuals have elevated risk for PTSD, such as women. Additionally, individuals suffering multiple traumas, intense trauma, and unpredictable/uncontrollable trauma may be at a greater risk for developing PTSD symptoms.
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DO YOU HAVE PTSD?
Individuals with PTSD repeatedly relive the traumatic event in various forms. Some can experience repeated, intrusive memories of the trauma. Others may experience nightmares that remind them of what happened. Individuals may experience flashbacks: sensory experiences during which the individual feels as if they are "reliving" what happened, and may even lose awareness of their current surroundings. Oftentimes, those with PTSD may be triggered by people, places, or situations that remind them of the trauma, leading them to feel very upset and anxious, and/or experience symptoms such as increased heart rate, shakiness, and trouble breathing. Individuals with PTSD attempt to avoid thinking about or discussing the trauma, and may also avoid situations or experiences that remind them of it.
Individuals suffering from PTSD may also experience changes in mood, such as feeling detached or numb, or lose pleasure in previously enjoyable activities. Other common mood symptoms include emotional numbing toward positive events and an increased reactivity toward negative events. Many feel as if they cannot trust others, that the world is extremely dangerous, or may blame themselves for what happened. Those with PTSD can also develop symptoms such as trouble sleeping, feel like they must always be watchful or "on guard," or may startle easily. Some can also become irritable and have angry outbursts.
Often individuals with PTSD have symptoms of other disorders, particularly depression, substance abuse, or other types of anxiety. Often individuals "self-medicate" their feelings with alcohol or other substances. This can lead to a temporary dulling of the anxiety, but can lead to a "rebound effect," or intensification of this anxiety, after discontinuing the drugs.
The course of PTSD differs across individuals. Some individuals recover within six months, others show a more chronic course, lasting years.Cognitive behavioral treatments have been shown to be effective for treating PTSD symptoms. Please, email us at firstname.lastname@example.org or call at (850) 645-1766 to find out more about our treatment programs.