Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is a condition that develops in people who have experienced a deeply disturbing, violent, threatening or otherwise traumatic incident. In the months following a traumatic event, it is universal to experience a range of reactions from mood imbalances to re-experiencing the event. If the symptoms do not fade or dissipate overtime say, after many years, you may be experiencing PTSD. About 7% of Americans experience PTSD symptoms at some point in their life, so rest assured that there is a well-understood path to healing if you are experiencing trauma-related disruptions to your mental health.
How To Know If You Have PTSD
A PTSD diagnosis requires four symptoms that are sustained for at least a month and are interfering with everyday life and ability to function:
This may take the form of bad dreams or daytime flashbacks. These experiences usually include a physiological response as if the traumatic event is happening again, such as heart-racing and sweating.
Going out of your way to avoid places, situations, or thoughts that might remind you of your trauma. This symptom can cause a person to change their daily routine, such as being unable to drive after a car accident.
Arousal and reactivity symptoms
These symptoms reflect an overall shift in a patient’s alertness and daily tension, regardless of whether reminders of the trauma are present. Sleep disruptions and insomnia are common as well and fall in this category. The feeling of being jumpier, “on edge,” or quick to anger than usual indicates that PTSD symptoms are present.
Negative changes in thinking and mood
These changes can overlap with symptoms of depression—difficulty concentrating, loss of interest in usual work and hobbies, hopelessness, detachment from family and friends. But in the case of PTSD, it can include specific cognitive distortions related to the trauma, such as guilt and trouble remembering the event.
Not all traumatic experiences develop into PTSD, the condition is best understood as an interaction between traumatic events and pre-existing risk factors. Other mental health conditions such as depression or anxiety, a history of childhood trauma, or substance abuse issues all greatly impact the way that trauma gets processed. PTSD treatment will both manage short-term symptoms and dig deeper into individual trauma response.
Treatments for PTSD
There are three main goals in the treatment of PTSD: improve your symptoms, teach you the skills to understand and manage the condition, and restore your self-esteem. Generally, a combination of talk treatment, which includes Stress Inoculation Training & Cognitive Behavioral Treatment, and other treatment modalities are effective in achieving all three goals. Cognitive-behavioral treatment is a powerful tool in addressing PTSD because it aims to challenge and change the thought patterns that cause disruption. It can often be difficult to discuss or relive details of trauma without being triggered, so having a trained professional on hand can make it possible to open the door to those feelings without a spiral response. Other treatment modalities including grounding and breathing techniques which can accompany conversations about your trauma to fully understand the symptoms that need to be addressed. If your PTSD manifests heavily as insomnia, mood imbalances, or anger, for instance, then the treatment plan will aim to relieve symptoms.
People who suffer from PTSD perceive threats differently, in part because their brain chemistry has been affected by the illness. The easily triggered “fight-or-flight” response is often not in response to current, tangible threats, but an internal set of thought patterns. Medications such as SSRIs and SNRIs can get this response under control and provide relief from nightmares and flashbacks. By alleviating immediate symptoms and learning the tools to reframe your thought patterns in the long term, you have the ability to live a full life with PTSD.
We’re Here for You
At Blair Wellness Group, we’re devoted to the treatment of your traumas. Having a place to openly discuss your responses to traumatic events can have a positive impact on your mental health, productivity, and relationships, and can help you learn more about your own patterns, strengths, and pitfalls.
If you feel ready to make important changes in your life and seek psychological services, we are here to support and guide you through every step. Remember that growth and change take time and perseverance—the journey of healing and emotional awareness requires practice, self-forgiveness, and time. But like any endeavor worth doing, you will start to notice little ways in your daily life that you are healing and transforming for the better.