Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) is a condition of persistent mental or emotional stress occurring to a person due to psychological shock or a traumatic event. Any shocking event, including combat, accident, natural disaster, sexual assault, etc., can be life-threatening and cause traumatic stress.
Sometimes traumatic stress occurs without a person experiencing a dangerous occasion. Events such as the death of a loved one, romantic breakup, and other unexpected ones can result in serious traumatic stress disorder.
Identifying the symptoms and getting aid at the right time can help you treat PTSD better. If you have experienced an unfortunate event and wish to learn more about this disorder, continue reading the article.
What is Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)?
Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) is defined as a condition in which a person is in persistent mental and emotional stress. This stress is a result of an unfortunate event or a traumatic experience.
When the stress is caused by life-threatening events such as war, assaults, car accidents, or a natural disaster, it can lead you towards PTSD. Not only physically dangerous but emotionally charged incidents such as death, breakup, or other challenging events can make a person develop PTSD.
PTSD is a disease that has been prevailing for a very long time but with different names. During World War I, the experts used to call this disorder a “shell shock,” while in World War II, it was known as “combat fatigue.”
However, it is essential to keep in mind that PTSD does not only happens to war veterans. This disorder can develop in any person from any race or ethnicity of any age.
The condition of PTSD can last for months or years. There are situations when your disorder triggers and bring back memories or experiences of trauma by intense physical and emotional reactions.
Types of PTSD
Post Traumatic Stress Disorder is a single condition, but on people’s symptoms, experts have developed subtypes and call them “specifiers.” this is to make the diagnosis and treatment easier for the doctor as well as for the patient.
Following are the common types of PTSD.
- Acute Stress Disorder (ASD) - Generally, ASD is not considered as PTSD. It is a collection of symptoms such as anxiety, depression, and avoidance that develops after or within a month of a traumatic or shocking event. ASD contributes to developing PTSD because of which it is considered as its type.
- Dissociative PTSD - Just as the name suggests, dissociative PTSD is when a person detaches himself from a trauma. It is when a person starts to separate himself from the event or fell as if he’s outside of his own body.
- Uncomplicated PTSD - This is a type of PTSD in which people re-experience trauma and avoid people or places associated with that event. However, people do not suffer from other mental health issues such as depression or anxiety in this disorder.
- Comorbid PTSD - Unlike uncomplicated PTSD, Comorbid involves other mental disorders like depression, panic disorder, anxiety, and substance abuse issues. People suffering from comorbidity can treat the condition better by handling PTSD and other mental health disorders.
Symptoms of PTSD
Post Traumatic Stress Disorder is a condition that occurs as a response to chemical and neuronal changes in the brain after experiencing threatening or dangerous events. It can disrupt your activities and can influence your ability to function.
The symptoms of PTSD are triggered by several things. Not only severe factors but negligible elements such as sounds or words can trigger symptoms of PTSD.
Mental health professionals have categorized the symptoms of PTSD into four groups:
- Intrusion - It is a symptom where a person frequently sees flashbacks of the trauma and feels as if he is reliving it again and again. Vivid memories of unpleasant and disturbing events haunt them in the form of nightmares.
- Avoidance - Another major symptom of PTSD is an avoidance of people, places, situations, and activities that reminds a person of the shocking event. Confronting these things triggers distressing memories affecting the person in many ways.
- Cognition and Mood - If a person thinks negatively of himself and finds it hard to recall important parts of the traumatic event, chances are he is suffering from PTSD. Moreover, the continuous feeling of guilt, blame and worry, and reduced interest in activities you once loved are also the symptoms of PTSD.
- Arousal and Reactivity - These are the symptoms that include irritability and bouts of anger. It is when a person starts reacting in a self-destructive way, constantly feels being on edge, and faces trouble concentrating on tasks.
Identifying and analyzing the symptoms of PTSD or any disease is important to treat it rightly on time. Avoiding the symptoms can lead to severe disorders that can be life-threatening.
PTSD Symptoms in Women
According to a study by American Psychiatric Association (APA), women are twice as likely to get PTSD as men. Moreover, the symptoms slightly differ from that of men. Women generally face the following symptoms that can result in PTSD:
- They tend to feel more anxious and depressed.
- Intense numbness with no emotions.
- They easily get startled.
- Are more sensitive to the memories of trauma.
Research shows that the symptoms of PTSD in women last longer than in men. According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Office of Women’s Health, women wait around four years to see a doctor when their symptoms start while men approach medical aid within one year.
PTSD Symptoms in Men
The symptoms of PTSD in men are common. They go through intrusion, avoidance, cognitive and mood issues, and reactivity and arousal concerns. These symptoms start to show up within the first month of the shocking event.
Every person who has PTSD has different symptoms as it depends on the person’s biology and the impact of the traumatic experience.
Causes of PTSD
Post Traumatic Stress Disorder is developed when a person goes through a stressful, frightening event or a prolonged shocking experience. The events may include actual or threatened death, sexual violence, serious injury, etc.
Mental health experts are not sure why some people tend to develop PTSD and others do not. But they believe that, like other disorders, PTSD is a complex mixture of several elements and features.
Following are the causes of PTSD that professional’s have concluded after years of research and study:
- Stressful, frightening, and distressing experience, including the severity of the shock you have gone through in life.
- Inherited mental diseases and disorders such as the family history of depression, anxiety, panic attacks, etc.
- Some inherited features of personality, such as your temperament, can also cause PTSD.
- The way your brain functions in regulating the chemicals and hormones that the body releases in response to stress and anxiety.
PTSD is a common disease, and the ratio of people that experience this disorder is 1 to 3 who go through severe trauma.
In addition to this, PTSD is also caused by medical reasons. If a person experienced a life-threatening medical emergency, he would have a tendency to develop PTSD. Not only do the serious medical conditions result in PTSD, in fact, if you keep reliving and thinking of an insignificant or minor event, it will result in PTSD.
Some women formulate PTSD after giving birth to a child. It is known as Postpartum PTSD. This condition is caused when a woman witnesses pregnancy complications or gave birth too early.
Following are the factors that increase the risk of postpartum PTSD:
- Having prepartum depression.
- Fear of childbirth
- Bad experience of past pregnancy
- Lack of support network
There can be several causes of PTSD. There are cases when people have different mental health disorders, and they end up having PTSD.
Risk Factors of PTSD
It is hard to categorize people who can or can not develop PTSD. It is a disorder that can aim at any person of any age at any moment of life. However, there are some factors that will make it more likely to develop PTSD in people after a traumatic episode.
These factors include:
- Coming across an intense or long-lasting trauma.
- Experiencing childhood abuse.
- Encounter with a natural disaster
- Jobs that make you exposed to traumatic events such as military, police, etc.
- Prevailing mental health disorders such as depression and anxiety.
- Having issues with substance misuse (drinking and drugs)
- Lacking the emotional support of family and friends.
- Living with family members suffering from mental health problems.
Mental and physical health plays a vivid role in minimizing as well as maximizing the risks of PTSD.
Diagnosis for PTSD
In order to cure and treat PTSD, it is essential that you get diagnosed with the condition in time. Without proper diagnosis from the expert, it will become harder to treat the condition. Unlike other diseases, it is hard to diagnose PTSD as there is no specific test for it.
In some cases, when people resist or hesitate to recall or discussing the traumatic event, it gets difficult for the doctor to diagnose the disorder.
Generally, a psychiatrist, psychologist, or psychiatric nurse practitioner diagnose a patient with post-traumatic stress disorder on the basis of:
- Performing a physical exam to check the medical problems.
- Doing a psychological evaluation.
- Using the criteria in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorder (DSM-5).
For diagnosing the person with PTSD, a professional requires to expose the person to the actual event to analyze the reactions.
If you keep on experiencing the problems after a month of a traumatic incident and you observe difficulty in functioning socially or officially, you might have PTSD.
Treatment For PTSD
PTSD, like other disorders, can be treated if diagnosed in time properly. It is possible to regain a control of your life by treating PTSD with the right methods provided by mental health experts. Generally, PTSD has two effective treatments; psychotherapy and medication.
A professional can prescribe one or a combination of these two treatments to cure PTSD. Sometimes, getting an emotional support animal is also a helpful option.
The one most common treatment of PTSD is psychotherapy. According to the severity of the disorder, several therapies are done on adults and children to cure PTSD. This treatment includes the following therapies:
Cognitive Behavioral Therapy - It is a talk therapy that helps a patient identify thinking patterns about himself. In this treatment, a therapist encourages a person to talk about the traumatic event and change the perspective about it.
Exposure Therapy - Exposure therapy is a form of behavioral therapy that helps a person face distressing situations and memories in a safe environment and cope with them. It helps reduce the symptoms of PTSD by using the approach of dealing with the disorder by virtual reality programs.
EMDR Therapy - Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing is a therapy that is done to treat PTSD in combination with exposure therapy. A therapist guides the eye movement of the person to help him process memories and change the way he reacts to them.
Psychotherapy assists the patient in developing the skills that help him handle stressful situations and guide him on how to better cope with them. This approach lets the person gain control over his memories and stress that triggers PTSD.
Along with psychotherapy, medication can be really helpful in treating PTSD. Some doctors combine the two treatments to get rid of chronic PTSD permanently. The following medicines are commonly prescribed by doctors to PTSD patients:
- Antidepressants - Medicines that help a person sleep better and concentrate on tasks.
- Anti-Anxiety Medication - Medicines or drugs that relieve stress and anxiety are good to treat PTSD.
- Prazosin - This medicine suppresses nightmares that trigger PTSD but should only be taken after professional advice.
To ensure the effectiveness of the treatment, a person has to take some steps on his part as well. For example, the lifestyle of the person has to do a lot in treating PTSD through therapy and medication.
Taking a healthy and balanced diet and exercising daily can help your mind and body fight the disorder better. Moreover, it will help you concentrate on your tasks and gain control over your thoughts and feelings.
Another way to make the treatment successful is to get emotional support from an animal. Many people who suffer from different mental disorders find it helpful to get emotional support animals along with the other treatments to handle PTSD.
You can simply get an emotional support animal through an ESA letter prescribed by a mental health professional.
There are no defined ways to prevent traumatic and shocking events in your life. However, if you have survived these incidents, you can prevent the symptoms that cause or trigger PTSD.
One very effective way is to have a support group of people in your life on which you can emotionally rely and trust. Talk to your partner, friends, family, or even a therapist about your feelings and experiences.
It will help you relax your mind and get control over your life. Moreover, it may be hard, but a person should try to change his thinking pattern in order to prevent PTSD. When you start picturing yourself as a survivor and not a victim, you will have the strength to face and overcome your fears.
PTSD can be really damaging for health if not treated in time. People with PTSD should identify the symptoms and get the right treatment before they fall prey to suicidal thoughts.
Frequently Asked Questions
What are the 4 types of PTSD?
Following are the four types of PTSD.
- Acute Stress Disorder (ASD)
- Dissociative PTSD
- Uncomplicated PTSD
- Comorbid PTSD
Regardless of gender and age, any person can suffer from any type of PTSD.
What are the stages of PTSD?
The 4 stages of PTSD through which a person goes include:
- Impact stage
- Denial stage
- Short term recovery stage
- Long term recovery stage
What does PTSD do to a person?
PTSD forces a person to get intense feelings and disturbing thoughts about the traumatic event after it has ended. People with PTSD relive and experience the event through flashbacks and nightmares.
What happens if PTSD is left untreated?
If left untreated, PTSD can cause several issues such as chronic pain, depression, anxiety, substance misuse, and sleep disorders. It also influences the person’s ability to work and interact with people.
What is the difference between PTSD and moral injury?
PTSD is a condition that focuses on fear-related symptoms, while moral injury deals with guilt, shame, and anger. However, the causes of moral injury can lead to post-traumatic stress disorder.
Does PTSD affect memory?
People with PTSD find it hard to concentrate on work and trouble remembering things. It impacts their memory, which is a vivid symptom that a person has post-traumatic stress disorder.