In developing inner safety with self compassion and acceptance one embraces the fears with courage which opens the heart to change.

– Michael G. Mruz

Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)

Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is a mental health condition that can occur in people who have either experienced or witnessed a terrifying event in which serious physical harm occurred or was threatened. Examples of triggering events may include: natural disaster, serious accident, terrorist incident, sudden death of a loved one, war, violent personal assaults, or other life-threatening events. Symptoms may include flashbacks, nightmares and severe anxiety, as well as uncontrollable thoughts about the event.

It is natural to have some of these symptoms after a traumatic event. In some people, serious symptoms subside after a few weeks; this is called Acute Stress Disorder, or ASD. When symptoms last more than a month, seriously affect a person’s ability to function, and are not a result of medical illness, substance abuse, or anything except the event itself, they might be Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD).

Symptoms of PTSD

Symptoms of PTSD may appear in the days following a traumatic event, but typically appear within three months of the trauma. PTSD symptoms last more than a month, and may persist for months or even years, and cause significant distress or problems functioning.

Symptoms of PTSD fall into four categories:

  1. Intrusive thoughts such as repeated, involuntary memories, distressing dreams, or flashbacks of the traumatic event.
  2. Avoiding reminders of the traumatic event; avoiding people, places, activities, objects and situations that may trigger memories.
  3. Negative thoughts and feelings: ongoing fear, anger, guilt or shame; decreased interest in activities; feelings of detachment or estrangement.
  4. Arousal and reactive symptoms: irritability and angry outbursts; reckless or self-destructive behavior; startle response; problems concentrating or sleeping.

To be diagnosed with PTSD, an adult must have all the following for at least 1 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

Risk Factors for PTSD

The exact cause of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder is not fully known, but several factors — including personality, genetics, and environment or experiences — appear to contribute to its development.

  • Genetics: Having parents or other family members with anxiety disorders or depression can increase the likelihood that a person may develop PTSD.
  • Environment / Experiences: The amount and severity of trauma and stressful events, such as childhood abuse, may make a person more susceptible to PTSD.
  • Other Mental Health Disorders. A person who has depression or other anxiety disorders may be more prone to PTSD.

Treatment for PTSD

Psychotherapy, sometimes referred to as “talk therapy” or counseling, is a vital component of treating Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder. There are a variety of specific psychotherapeutic approaches that can be explored in the treatment of PTSD, including:

Medication does not cure PTSD but can help relieve their symptoms. The types of medications used to treat the symptoms of anxiety disorders include:

  • Anti-Anxiety Medications
  • Antidepressants
  • Anti-Psychotics

Every individual will react to various medications in their own way, and several different medications, or combinations of medications, may be tried before finding one that improves symptoms with manageable side effects.

If you or someone you know is experiencing any of these symptoms and wish to seek treatment for post-traumatic stress disorder, please contact me for an evaluation.

Also see Anxiety Disorders & Therapy »