Post-traumatic stress disorder is a mental health disorder that develops in people who experience scary, shocking, or traumatic events. If you ever watched the movie Thank You For Your Service and American Sniper, these portray the real-life experiences of soldiers battling with PTSD. PSTD isn’t just experienced by veterans. It can be diagnosed to people who experienced abuse, violence, or tragedies.

PTSD can happen at any age because you’ll never know if you can experience traumatic life events. For some, the symptoms are controllable, but for some, it’s a battle with their mental health. If you or someone you know is exposed to a traumatic event and is experiencing unhealthy reactions even without the threat of danger, know if you need help from a mental health professional. 

What Causes Post-traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)?

Here’s the thing, some people experiencing traumatic life events may not have PTSD, but some may do. Why? It may depend on the experiences, the length of time being exposed to the traumatic event, and it will depend on the person’s coping. Some people may have PTSD, but they are not aware of its presence. That’s why they won’t know it’s there in the first place. 

According to the APA (American Psychiatric Association), here are the reasons, risk factors, or causes why a person is likely to develop Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD): 

  • Witnessing, experiencing, or learning about a harmful event (serious accident, car accident, natural disaster, physical injury, witnessing the death of a loved one)
  • People with unpleasant childhood experiences like physical and sexual assault are likely to develop PTSD.
  • Serious, life-threatening health problems
  • Severe trauma like miscarriage or losing a baby
  • Death of a loved one
  • Military combat, war veterans, torture, witnessing a crime. PTSD is a common mental health condition found in the military and other service members.
  • Risk Factors: PTSD may develop for people with existing mental health issues that experience traumatic stress

PTSD Symptoms: How to Know If Someone Has Post Traumatic Stress Disorder?

Here’s what you should know: the symptoms of PTSD do not appear immediately. The symptoms may occur within one month after the traumatic occurrence. The symptoms may vary from person to person who will develop Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, and it may start to interrupt daily activities, work, and relationships. There are four types of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder symptoms; these are Avoidance, Intrusive Memories, Negative Changes, Arousal and Reactivity Symptoms. 

Avoidance Symptom

  • Avoids talking or thinking about the trauma exposure
  • Memory problems or Selective memory: Only remembering parts of the traumatic event 
  • Other people with PTSD may avoid places, people, or activities that remind them of the disturbing experience
  • Withdrawal from situations that reminds of the distressing experience

Intrusive Thoughts and Memories Symptoms

  • Having flashbacks of the traumatic event
  • Recurrent and unwanted disturbing memories of the horrifying episode 
  • Having nightmares or bad dreams of the chilling experience
  • Experiencing physical reactions and emotional distress when the person of being reminded of the traumatic situation
  • Randomly gets stuck in the middle of the day with the memories intruding their mind 

PTSD Symptoms: Negative Changes in Mood and Thoughts 

  • Having negative thoughts about yourself, your life situations, other people, and perspective after the disturbing events
  • Feeling hopeless about the future
  • Difficulty in maintaining relationships with family, friends, or colleagues 
  • Social withdrawal or being detached from friends and family members
  • Lost of interest in activities enjoyed before 
  • Having a hard time developing positive emotions
  • Being emotionally numb (does not feel emotional pain or unable to cry) 

Arousal and Reactivity Symptoms

  • Appears to be easily startled (like war veterans who develop PTSD easily gets startled even with gunshots on the television) 
  • Negative emotional and physical reactions (like angry outbursts when reminded about the traumatic event)
  • Being paranoid or obsessively on guard about danger (the ones who develop PTSD because of a car accident is extra precautious or afraid to ride a car)
  • Self-destructive and harmful behaviors (drinking too much or substance abuse) 
  • Insomnia, unable to fall asleep, or trouble staying asleep
  • Inability to concentrate on daily tasks (appears to be daydreaming)
  • Acts aggressive, irritable, and having anger outbursts 

PTSD Symptoms for Children 6 years and below: 

  • Children may be re-enacting the disturbing experience through play, words, or actions. For example, kids who experienced sexual abuse undress their barbies or dolls
  • Experiencing nightmares, screaming while sleeping, wetting the bed 
  • Appears to be isolated and likes to play alone

How Intense Can the Symptoms of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder Be?

If there are no mental health interventions, the symptoms of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder can worsen over time. If a person with PTSD is experiencing a stressful event in life or encounters a situation that reminds them of the traumatic event, the symptoms may worsen. For instance, patients diagnosed with PTSD who were sexually assaulted may feel overwhelmed and react negatively when they see or hear news about sexual abuse. That is why it is essential to see a mental health care provider immediately. 

What Are the Stages of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)?

Knowing the stages of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder is vital so you may know what to expect in a person experiencing PTSD or if you’re experiencing this yourself. Here are the five stages of PTSD: 

1. Impact or “Emergency” Stage

The impact or emergency stage happens immediately after the occurrence of the traumatic event. It is expected that the person may be in a state of shock and struggle to understand why this is happening. It is likely that in the impact or emergency stage, the person may appear to be hypervigilant, maybe crying, anxious, and struggling with guilt (blaming oneself for what happened). 

2. Denial Stage

Then there’s the denial stage, although not everybody experiences this. However, those who experience the denial stage will avoid thinking about the traumatic event or avoiding painful emotions. Usually, the avoidance symptoms appear during this stage. Others resort to drinking or using recreational drugs to numb their feelings. 

3. Short-Term Recovery Stage

During the short-term recovery stage, the person with PTSD seeks solutions to address the problem. However, this short-term recovery stage can go both ways: they accept that they need help or appear aggressive to suppress the stressful experience. The person will start to make adjustments, conscious choice of returning to normal with everyday tasks. During this stage, intrusive memories, flashbacks and nightmares may still occur, making it challenging to adjust to daily tasks. 

4. Long-Term Recovery Stage

During the long-term recovery stage, the person with PTSD will continue to deal with the trauma. There can still be nightmares and anxiety, but with the treatment, the symptoms of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder may be managed, and healthy coping can be learned. With constant support from family members and health care providers, a person with PTSD can eventually be calmer and return to normal day-to-day activities. 

girl with ptsd in support group

Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD): Treatments and Therapies

The question is: Will PTSD go away on its own without treatment? For some, the symptoms or memories may fade away in months or years. However, there may be negative after-effects that can change an individual (like being so negative or overly aggressive). For some, without PTSD treatment and consulting with a mental health care provider, the symptoms never go away, and there can be triggering factors when reminded of the event. If there is ongoing trauma in an individual with PTSD, it can worsen and may lead to mental health problems like depression, substance abuse, panic disorder, and suicidal thoughts. 

Here are the treatment options recommended for an individual with PTSD: 

Medications: A doctor may prescribe anti-depressants and anti-anxiety medications to control the symptoms of PTSD. These medications are prescribed for those who have sleep problems and anxiety attacks.

Psychotherapy: Talk therapy or Psychotherapy in PTSD patients can be six weeks or longer. During a Psychotherapy session, a person with PTSD is involved in a problem-solving situation, assess the current situation, talk about their feelings, and explore past events. It is proven that having a support system while on therapy is beneficial too.

Exposure Therapy: This involves gradual exposure to the trauma in a safe and controlled environment. This may include talking about the traumatic experience, virtual reality technology re-enactment of the event, visiting the place of the accident, in short, facing the fear. This therapy is also effective in treating phobias. 

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT): CBT teaches PTSD patients to assess and make changes about their negative feelings and emotions caused by the trauma. Negative feelings like guilt or shame are changed to feel better. 

How Can Therapy Help People Overcome Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)

Therapy can help people with PTSD healthily cope and react with frightening experiences brought about by the traumatic experience. 

During therapy, a person with PTSD can:

  • Learn about the trauma and after-effects of the traumatic event. 
  • Learn relaxation techniques and how to control anger. 
  • Learn self-care techniques on how to be physically, emotionally, and mentally healthy. Learn tips on how to exercise, eat healthily, and fall asleep better. 
  • Identify and deal with shame, guilt, and other negative feelings concerning the traumatic event. 

Find PTSD Therapists Online

Are you looking for a PTSD therapist online for you, a loved one, or a family member? Schedule an appointment with Kentucky Counseling Services now. This is a battle that you don’t need to fight alone. Seek professional treatment now before this starts affecting your mental health, everyday life, and relationship with your loved ones.

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