Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is a mental health condition caused by a traumatic event or experience. It may cause terrifying nightmares and flashbacks as well as severe anxiety and stress. Without treatment, PTSD can make living an ordinary life very difficult.
Approximately seven to eight percent of the population will struggle with PTSD at some point in their lives1, so this is not a rare condition. However, not everyone who goes through trauma will experience PTSD. About 60 percent of men and 50 percent of women experience some type of trauma. Women are almost twice as likely as men to develop PTSD. Veterans are also vulnerable, and the PTSD rate among veterans is between 11 and 15 percent.1
Trauma is not unusual, and neither is PTSD. This condition is very difficult to live with, but it can be treated effectively. It’s not known why someone will develop PTSD following trauma, while others don’t. So, it’s important to watch for symptoms and signs in anyone who has been through a difficult event so that a diagnosis can be made and treatment can begin as soon as possible.
PTSD is a condition that results from a highly distressing or disturbing experience. The traumatic situation will trigger fear, and both an emotional and physical response. This is normal, but while most people recover from this response, a few will continue to experience it long after the traumatic event is over.
A scary or traumatic situation triggers what is called the “fight or flight” response. Quick changes in the brain and body allow a person to make a split decision in the moment: to run away or avoid the perceived danger or to fight back. It is a biological mechanism that keeps people safe in dangerous situations. A person with PTSD continues to feel the fear response, sometimes months or years after a trauma.
Any kind of trauma can potentially trigger PTSD, such as witnessing something bad that happens to someone else, or it can be something that happens personally. It may be a one-time, short event, or long-term trauma. Some examples of trauma that may trigger PTSD include:
Experiencing some fear weeks or even a month or two after a traumatic incident is not abnormal. However, if these symptoms persist, they may be caused by PTSD.
The signs of PTSD may vary by person, but they are generally related to fear and stress associated with the traumatic event. This may include flashbacks, nightmares, aggression or jumpiness, and avoidance, among many others symptoms. PTSD symptoms can be categorized as four main types:
Many of the symptoms of PTSD are normal in the weeks following a traumatic experience. They may indicate PTSD if they persist for three months or more, cause serious distress or interfere with a person’s work, relationships and other areas of life.
Symptoms of PTSD in children are often different from those in adults, or there may be additional symptoms along with some of the more common, adult symptoms of PTSD. These include:
To be diagnosed with PTSD, the symptoms must be persistent, lasting for more than a month. They must also cause significant distress and impairment in a person’s daily life. The diagnostic criteria include that the person must have experienced, either directly or indirectly, some kind of trauma. The person must be persistently reliving the trauma and engage in significant avoidance to try to prevent flashbacks, nightmares or negative memories. In addition to these criteria, the person must also have four or more other symptoms, like aggression, isolation, jumpiness or negative feelings about people or the world.
Transformations Treatment Centers offers different individualized treatment programs for our clients. Depending on the exact needs of the person being treated, they can enroll in the First Responders Program, Veterans Recovery Program or Sexual Abuse/Trauma Program to help with co-occurring PTSD and substance use disorders.