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At some point in their lives, many people go through difficult moments. It can be going to war, a major car accident, an abusive relationship, or sexual trauma. Living through a traumatic event means that you will experience stress related to the event after it is over, even while you are healing from it. It is natural to feel distressed after such events, but in some cases, distress related to traumatic events can persist and get worse, interfering with life. When this occurs, a person may have Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder.

What is PTSD?

Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, or PTSD, is a serious mental health condition triggered by scary, shocking, or dangerous events. PTSD is characterized by depression and anxiety caused by a traumatic experience. While some people may be able to move on after such events, for some, having such experiences causes them extreme distress, anxiety, and depression, affecting all aspects of their life for a significant amount of time.

One common misconception of PTSD is that it is a condition unique to people who have been to wars. While it is prominent amongst people who have been in combat, PTSD is a disorder that can affect anyone who has gone through any traumatic life event. PTSD is not only for adults, either. Children who have been through traumatic events can also develop PTSD.

Symptoms

Symptoms of this disorder may start manifesting themselves within one month of a traumatic event. However, in some cases, symptoms don’t appear until years after the event has happened. According to the DSM-V, there are several criteria required for a person to be diagnosed with PTSD. PTSD can develop not only in people who have experienced traumatic events, but in people who have been indirectly exposed to trauma. Just because you have been through or exposed to a traumatic event doesn’t mean you will develop PTSD. To be diagnosed with PTSD you must meet the following criteria:

  • At least one: exposure to death, threatened death, actual or threatened serious injury, or actual or threatened sexual violence through:
    • Direct exposure
    • Close friend or relative was exposed
    • Witnessing the trauma
    • Indirect exposure (first responders, medics)
  • The traumatic event is re-experienced through at least one of the following ways:
    • Unwanted, upsetting memories
    • Nightmares
    • Flashbacks
    • Emotional distress after being reminded of the trauma
    • Physical reaction after being reminded of the trauma
  • Avoidance of thoughts or reminders related to the trauma
  • Negative thoughts in at least two of the following ways:
    • Not remembering key features of the trauma
    • Negative thoughts about oneself or the world
    • Self-blame or blaming others for the trauma
    • Negative affect—Negative emotions
    • Loss of interest in activities
    • Feelings of isolation
    • Loss of positive affect
  • Heightened reactions to stimuli related to the trauma in at least two of the following ways:
    • Aggression and irritability
    • Risky or destructive behavior
    • Hypervigilance
    • Heightened startle reaction
    • Difficulty concentrating
    • Difficulty sleeping
  • Symptoms persist for more than one month
  • Symptoms create functional impairment
  • Symptoms are not due to medication, substance use, or other illness

Additionally, there are two specifications possible for PTSD:

  • Dissociative Specification
    • Includes symptoms above, plus
    • High levels of the following in reaction to trauma-related stimuli
      • Depersonalization
      • Derealization
    • Delayed Specification
      • Full diagnostic criteria are not met until at least six months after the trauma

Treatment

PTSD, while long-lasting, can be treated. The main treatments for this condition are therapy and medication. Many PTSD patients are prescribed antidepressants to help control symptoms like sadness, worry, anger, and anhedonia (emotional numbness). Patients can also be prescribed anti-anxiety medication to help with trauma-related anxiety.

Psychotherapy, or talk therapy, is the most prominent type of treatment for PTSD. Cognitive therapy helps patients with PTSD turn destructive thought patterns into healthy ways of coping with trauma.  Exposure therapy aims to expose patients to traumatic memories and teach them effective ways of dealing with the emotions associated with them. With a combination of cognitive and exposure therapy, people with PTSD and can return to normal and lead happy and healthy lives.

 

PTSD is a mental health condition characterized by flashbacks, nightmares, anxiety, and more. It can be triggered by a traumatic event in a person’s life, and as doctors have observed through years of research and treatment, it is a difficult disorder to go through. PTSD can happen to anyone at any point in their life, regardless of race, sex, age, or socioeconomic status. It’s important to reach out to a mental health professional if you or someone you know is struggling with any of the symptoms mentioned above. Treatment will help those suffering from PTSD to manage their symptoms and lead a healthier life. If left untreated, PTSD can lead to substance abuse, anger management problems, and even severe depression, which can lead to suicide.

If you or someone you know is in danger of attempting suicide or has attempted suicide, call 911 (or your local emergency number) immediately. The Colony ER Hospital is a fully-equipped facility offering impatient care and emergency services. We are open 24/7 365 days to serve the needs of our community.


This blog is written by Marian Flores, staff member at Nutex Health.

Nutex Health, Inc supports you and your family’s health. You can depend on The Colony Emergency Room Hospital or any one of our concierge-level, freestanding emergency facilities to deliver the emergency care you deserve, 24 hours a day, 365 days a year.