Post-traumatic stress disorder, more commonly referred to as PTSD, is a disorder that develops in individuals who go through horrifying, dangerous, scary experiences. It is natural for people to feel afraid after traumatic events and this fear triggers many split-second changes that help the body avoid or defend itself against danger. While most people recover from traumatic events fairly quickly, there are those who continue to experience problems and these are sometimes diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder. People with PTSD often experience fear even when they don’t face any danger.
Causes of PTSD
The range of events that can trigger PTSD include natural disasters, terrorist attacks, being held hostage, military combat, witnessing violent deaths, severe neglect, prolonged violence and sexual abuse, violent personal assaults as well as serious road accidents just to name a few. PTSD can manifest immediately after a scary event. It can also take a while i.e. days, weeks, months or even years, to develop. And while it’s not clear why it develops in some people and not everyone, at least one out of three people who have traumatic experiences develop PTSD.
Signs and symptoms of PTSD
Not everyone who goes through a traumatic experience develops acute or chronic PTSD. It’s also important to note that not everyone who suffers from PTSD has necessarily gone through a traumatic event. Some experiences like the death of a close family friend can trigger PTSD. Symptoms develop within a period of three months but may take several years to develop in some individuals. For symptoms to be considered PTSD-related, they have to persist for at least a month and so severe that work or relations are interfered with. The severity of these symptoms varies, with some people developing chronic PTSD. The following symptoms must be experienced for one month before an adult can be diagnosed with PTSD.
At least one re-experiencing symptom – frightening thoughts, flashbacks, and bad dreams.
At least two cognition and mood symptoms – disinterest in fun activities, negative thoughts about the world or oneself, distorted feelings like the guilt of blame.
At least two arousal and reactivity symptoms – trouble sleeping, angry outbursts, feeling on edge or tense, being easily startled.
At least one avoidance symptom – staying away from people, places, and events that remind one of the traumatic events, avoiding feelings or thoughts related to the event
Treatments and therapies
There are various types of psychotherapy that are utilized to help treat patients struggling with PTSD. Such include stress inoculation training, cognitive restructuring where people learn to make sense of bad memories, as well as exposure therapy patients, are safely exposed to their trauma events to help cope. Those experiencing PTSD due to on going trauma such as abusive relationships, feeling suicidal, drug abuse and depression are encouraged to seek treatment from experienced medical professionals. It is important to note that not every treatment works for every patient as PTSD manifests uniquely in each person.
Miriam Gold, LCSW, PLLC
Therapy Services for Children, Adolescents, Adults, Families, and Groups
Miriam Gold specializes in trauma PTSD therapy in Raleigh, North Carolina. Her treatment specializations also include childhood and adult Trauma, adult survivors of trauma, both recent and past. Treating children and adolescents; Neglect/Sexual Abuse/Physical abuse, Community/War/Political Violence, Natural Disasters, Life Threatening Medical illness, Serious Accidents, School Violence, Traumatic Loss, Foster Care and Adoption, Attachment Concerns. Miriam is Rostered in Trauma-Focused Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (TF-CBT) through the North Carolina Child Treatment Program. TF-CBT is an evidence-based treatment for children, adolescents, and their parents or caretakers who have experienced trauma or loss. Extensive training in Cognitive Processing Therapy (CPT), an evidence-based therapy for adults.