With approximately one in 11 people in the United States with some form of PTSD, you probably know or have known someone with this disorder. In fact, though it was once thought of as only an issue for combat survivors, PTSD affects many people for a variety of reasons. It spans cultures, ethnicity, age, and gender — and can affect anyone.

If you or someone you love needs help, here is a guide to PTSD and PTSD treatment options.

What Is PTSD?

According to the American Psychiatric Association:

Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is a psychiatric disorder that can occur in people who have experienced or witnessed a traumatic event such as a natural disaster, a serious accident, a terrorist act, war/combat, rape or other violent personal assault.

During WWI and WWII, PTSD had the titles of “shell shock” and “combat fatigue.” Its very definition is exposure to an upsetting traumatic event. A person does not have to have prior military service or be an active service member to experience PTSD. However, when compared to the general population, veterans have a higher rate of occurrence.

It is important to note that while post-traumatic stress disorder has a direct correlation to a traumatic event, it happens indirectly as well. For instance, someone who hears about a loved one’s traumatic death may experience or have a diagnosis of PTSD. Or even first responders who deal with child abuse, rape, and murder on a regular basis.

How Does PTSD Affect Someone?

It is normal to experience insomnia, upsetting memories, and feeling out of sorts after a traumatic event. For many, these feelings usually start to subside after a few months.

There is a difference between symptoms of PTSD and clinical diagnosis. For example, after exposure to a traumatic event, someone may show symptoms of PTSD. Yet for some, the symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder still persist after 30 days. It is not a short-term illness, yet the symptoms may be short-term.

As noted at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services:

PTSD is associated with changes in brain function and structure and these changes provide clues to the origins, treatment, and prevention of PTSD. Some cases may be delayed, with only subtle symptoms showing up initially and more severe symptoms emerging months after the traumatic event.

It is not known why some people get PTSD while others do not. Yet, there are risk factors that increase the chances of developing it, such as having:

  • A history of childhood abuse.
  • Other mental health issues like depression or anxiety.
  • Long-lasting or intense trauma.
  • No support from family or friends.
  • Certain jobs like first responders or military personnel.
  • Excess drug use or alcohol use.
  • A family history of depression or anxiety.

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Those who do have post-traumatic stress disorder may experience the following:

  • Re-Experiencing. A person may relive the trauma again and again. Some experience their trauma in flashbacks, nightmares, or memories.
  • Negative Thoughts. A person with PTSD may have a negative outlook or feel that they should or cannot be happy.
  • Avoidance. This comes in a few forms, such as avoiding doing certain things that remind the person of the trauma. Some may even avoid going out, going to work, or doing the things they would normally enjoy.
  • Hyperarousal. This is where the person overreacts to triggers. This person may be easily frightened, react to loud noises, have aggression issues, or engage in dangerous or destructive behavior.

Common Causes of PTSD

There is no catch-all in what may cause PTSD in some people. There are, however, certain case scenarios that may lead to a person experiencing symptoms of PTSD or an official diagnosis as such.

  • Sexual assault.
  • Witnessing a traumatic event.
  • War and/or combat situations.
  • A serious accident.
  • A natural disaster.
  • Repeated exposure to trauma (police, first responders, etc.).
  • Violent personal assault.
  • The death of a close family member, friend, or loved one.

The provided samples are just that — illustrations of stressors or triggers that may lead to PTSD symptoms or diagnoses. For instance, a serious road accident causes PTSD in some, while others experience no symptoms.

According to NIMH, for an official diagnosis of PTSD, an adult must have all of the following for at least one month:

  • At least one re-experiencing symptom.
  • At least one avoidance symptom.
  • At least two arousal and reactivity symptoms.
  • At least two cognition and mood symptoms.

PTSD Treatment Options

There are a variety of effective treatment options for a post-traumatic stress disorder. One of the effective models of treatment is cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT).

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy is psychotherapy focusing on modifying thoughts, behaviors, and emotions. It is a way to change how you think and deploy strategies that are the opposite of destructive thinking and behavior. The strategies used in CBT work to identify harmful thoughts and use strategies to overcome these thoughts.

Prolonged Exposure Therapy is another type of therapy aimed at coping mechanisms. In this type of therapy, the patient faces triggers and trauma stressors in a safe environment. This allows them to manage these stressors and form safe ways of control.

Eye-Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR) is a therapy focused on using the simultaneous recollection of memories and stimulation in the brain triggered by eye movements to reduce the intensity of traumatic memories and the emotions associated with them.

Stress Inoculation Therapy works by implementing stress management strategies. These include meditation, biofeedback, role-playing, breathing techniques, and muscle relaxation exercises.

There is no right or wrong treatment and not everyone will react the same way. Yet, these treatment options have proven to be effective. Along with a reliable support team, these therapies are useful in treatment programs. The important thing to know is that there is hope in managing PTSD symptoms.

Post-traumatic stress disorder is not something you have to tackle alone. If you or someone you love is having a difficult time with PTSD, our admissions team is always here to help answer any questions you may have. At Transformations Treatment Center, we are here for you. Don’t hesitate to reach out to us.

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