It’s inevitable. At one time or another, we will experience something traumatic. Someone we love will die; we may be the victim of a crime; or we may witness an assault against another person. We could even be involved in a car accident or find ourselves—without warning—in the middle of a natural disaster. It could happen at any time.
Often, there’s nothing we can do to foresee these terrifying events. Regardless of whether they begin and end in an instant or transpire over time, the effects of what we suffer can last for the rest of our lives. For instance, after a catastrophic experience many people are consumed by frightening memories or acute anxiety. Certain smells may even trigger a terrifying response.
If you experience frightening thoughts that last several weeks, months, or years after the original trauma has ended, you might be experiencing post-traumatic stress disorder.
Post-traumatic stress disorder can affect anyone who is predisposed at any stage in their lives. Rape victims may experience reoccurring nightmares and relive the attack for years after the incident. It’s not uncommon for war veterans—especially those who have experienced combat—to have long-lasting anxiety, flashbacks or angry outbursts. Children who are trauma victims or witnesses of abuse may withdraw from friends, refuse to talk or experience frequent stomach aches.
According to the National Institute of Mental Health, post-traumatic stress disorder affects 7.7 million adults. However, women are more likely to develop PTSD than men. The symptoms of post traumatic stress disorder can range from mild to severe and usually begin within three months of the frightening ordeal.
There are four types of post-traumatic stress disorder:
is when the symptoms appear within the first month of the trauma and last between two days and four weeks.
is when symptoms last for more than four weeks after the trauma.
is diagnosed when the signs and symptoms develop years after the traumatic event.
is when the symptoms last for more than three months, disappear for a few days, and then reappear. The degree of post-traumatic stress disorder varies among individuals. Some people experience mild symptoms—such as irritability—while others are debilitated by the co-occurring disorders that often accompanying PTSD, such as substance abuse, depression and anxiety disorders. That’s why it’s important to seek help from a qualified mental health professional to treat the post-traumatic stress disorder along with any co-occurring conditions to facilitate a full recovery.
Below is a list of some of the common signs and symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder:
(Because these symptoms in and of themselves do not always indicate the presence of post traumatic stress disorder, please contact your physician or mental health treatment provider in order to obtain an accurate diagnosis.)
Post-traumatic stress disorder can be successfully managed but must be individualized according to the causes and symptoms and is treated with a combination of the following treatments:
Cognitive Therapy to change how the victim thinks about the trauma
Exposure Therapy to desensitize the fear surrounding the memories
Eye movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR) to attempt to change how the victim reacts to memories of the trauma
Antidepressants and Other Medications to improve sleep and reduce anxiety and intrusive recollection of the traumatic event.
Group Therapy to gain new insight from others who have had similar experiences
Brief Psychodynamic Psychotherapy to understand how past trauma affects present-day emotions
Family Therapy to help family members who are affected by the victim’s trauma
If you suspect that you or a loved one may have post-traumatic stress disorder, please contact a professional mental health provider for diagnosis and treatment.
Lifeskills South Florida is a place where second chances become new beginnings. Since 1991, we’ve offered residential, transitional and outpatient mental health treatment to men and women ages 18 and over who are facing the challenges of psychiatric disorders, trauma-based disorders and chemical addictions. Located near white sands and sunlit beaches in Deerfield Beach, Florida, Lifeskills provides a safe and caring environment for adults who are focused on long-term health, healing and recovery.