Maybe you survived a car crash or are recovering from domestic violence, but either way – something’s not right. You avoid things that remind you of what happened and have problems sleeping and eating. Even your relationships have suffered. It’s possible you’re experiencing symptoms of something called post-traumatic stress disorder.
What Is Ptsd?
“Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is a psychiatric disorder that may occur in people who have experienced or witnessed a traumatic event such as a natural disaster, a serious accident, a terrorist act, war/combat, or rape or who have been threatened with death, sexual violence or serious injury.”
PTSD has earned many names over the years (“shell shock” during World War I and “combat fatigue” after World War II), but it doesn’t discriminate against any demographic.
Who Gets It?
Post-traumatic stress disorder is all-inclusive and can happen in anyone of any ethnicity, culture, or nationality, and within any age group. According to the U.S. National Center for PTSD, facts about the condition are worth noting:
- About six percent of the U.S. population will experience PTSD at some point.
- It affects nearly 15 million adults any given year.
- About eight percent of women get PTSD at some point, compared to about four percent of men.
Know The Symptoms
After years of research, symptoms of PTSD have been classified into four categories: intrusive thoughts, avoidance, mood or cognition changes, and alterations in arousal and reactivity.
- Intrusive thoughts like repeated, unintentional memories; bad dreams; or flashbacks of what happened.
- Avoiding reminders of what happened (activities, objects, people, places, circumstances, etc.) that may trigger bad memories.
- Mood or cognition changes, like not being able to remember details of the trauma, bad thoughts and feelings resulting in ongoing and distorted beliefs; self-blame or blaming others for what happened; unending fear, revulsion, anger, guiltiness or shame; less interest in once enjoyable activities; feelings of detachment from others; or inability to have positive emotions.
- “Alterations in arousal and reactivity. Arousal and reactive symptoms may include being irritable and having angry outbursts; behaving recklessly or in a self-destructive way; being overly watchful of one’s surroundings in a suspecting way;” being easily alarmed; or problems sleeping or concentrating.
How To Know If I Have Ptsd
Knowing if you have PTSD depends on a clinical diagnosis, but there are other tell-tale signs.
People of any age can exhibit PTSD symptoms. However, some aspects can make you more susceptible to getting it after a trauma, such as:
- Experiencing severe or long-term trauma
- Having survived other trauma early in life, like childhood abuse
- Employment that boosts your chance of being subjected to trauma, like being in the military or working as a first responder
- Other mental health conditions, like anxiety or depression
- Substance misuse, including heavy drug use or drinking
- Lack of an emotional support system
- A history of mental health conditions among blood relatives
You can get post-traumatic stress disorder by living through, seeing, or learning of an event, including threatened or actual death, serious injury or other violations.
But no one knows why some people have PTSD. Like other mental health issues, PTSD is likely caused by a complex potion of:
- Stressful experiences, like the quantity and seriousness of trauma you’ve experienced in your life
- Passed-down mental health risks, like a family history of depression and anxiety
- Inherited personality traits, often referred to as your temperament
- How your brain regulates the neurotransmitters and hormones your body dispenses in reaction to stress
If you have PTSD, you may also have a greater risk of developing other mental health problems like depression and anxiety. You could also develop problems with drugs or alcohol, eating disorders, sleep disorders, and suicidal actions and thoughts.
How To Diagnose & Treat Ptsd
Successfully treating PTSD normally includes:
- A physical exam performed by a doctor or other qualified health professional. The goal is to discover an underlying condition that may cause your symptoms.
- A psychiatric assessment by a mental health specialist, focusing on behavior, thoughts, and emotions. Your clinician will also ask for details of personal and family history of mental illness.
- Referring to criteria in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fifth Edition.
Once your doctor or clinician has arrived at a diagnosis, a talk about treatment options will take place. You may be offered psychotherapy, medicine, or ketamine infusion therapy.
PTSD affects millions of people, but like other mental health conditions, it isn’t something that should be ignored or stigmatized. If you have any symptoms of posttraumatic stress disorder, reach out to organizations that can help or ask your doctor for more information. With care, the symptoms can be managed. Contact us today to learn more.