Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, also known as PTSD, is a common mental disorder following exposure to immense stress or trauma. While once associated almost entirely with veterans following a war, an estimated 7-8 of all Americans will suffer from PTSD at some point during their lives. 80% of all people will experience a traumatic event at some point, and 20% of these go on to experience PTSD. Most importantly, PTSD often isn’t immediately noticeable, as some individuals may not experience real symptoms of PTSD for months after the event. PTSD is incredibly common, and about 8 million Americans qualify for diagnosis at any given time. If you or a loved one has been diagnosed with PTSD or has gone through a traumatic experience and are experiencing symptoms, it’s important to get treatment. Left untreated, Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder often just gets worse, causes complications, and reduces quality of life.

Most importantly, it’s treatable using medication, behavioral therapy, and counseling, and most people can quickly return to a healthy state of mind.

Symptoms of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder

Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder symptoms are categorized into short-term and long-term or chronic symptoms. Most people who develop PTSD experience short-term symptoms. Only a small percentage go on to experience Chronic PTSD. In most cases, symptoms will begin within 3 months of the traumatic event.

PTSD Symptoms are defined in categories including “Re-experiencing”, “Avoidance”, “Arousal and Reactivity”, and Cognition and Mood”.

Re-Experiencing – Re-experiencing means to re-live trauma or instances of it over and over. This typically includes flashbacks (which are often perceived as images), nightmares, frightening thoughts, and physical symptoms like racing heart, sweating, and clamminess. Re-experiencing symptoms are normally caused by triggers such as words, objects, or situations that remind the individual of the event, such as an accident, the loss of a loved one, etc.

Avoidance – Avoidance is defined as avoiding triggers as well as thoughts and feelings related to the traumatic event. Here, the individual will stay away from places, events, or objects that remind them of the trauma, especially if they act as triggers for flashbacks. This can cause significant changes to personal routine and life. For example, a person may avoid driving after an accident. They may avoid going to a kitchen after a traumatic incident in the kitchen, etc. Avoidance can also result in significant emotional and mental discomfort, as the individual will avoid thoughts or feelings around the trauma, which may result in shutting down.

Arousal and Reactivity – Arousal and Reactivity symptoms are constant changes to personality and behavior, with no specific triggers. These symptoms result in individuals who are tense, startled, stressed, angry, and irritable. In most cases, they include being easily startled, a feeling of tension or being “wound up”, inability to sleep or insomnia, outbursts and mood swings. While not as impairing as some other symptoms, arousal and reactivity symptoms can get in the way of sleeping, eating, and concentrating.

Cognition and Mood – Cognition and mood symptoms include depression-like changes to the person and their thoughts, often resulting in feelings of alienation and detachment. Poor memory, negative thoughts or a derogatory personal perspective, distorted feelings of guilt and blame, and an inability to enjoy or a loss of interest in enjoyable activities.

Detachment – Detachment, defined as depersonalization and derealization include symptoms where an individual experiences being an outsider or observer to themselves, or feels as though things are unreal, distorted, or distant.

Diagnosing Post Traumatic Stress Disorder

It’s normal to experience some symptoms as listed above for at least a few weeks after a traumatic event. Persons with PTSD will experience them persistently, for the long term, and to a level that severely impacts their ability to function. PTSD is also often accompanied by anxiety and depression, substance abuse, and other disorders.

The DSM-5 stipulates that an individual must experience all of the following symptoms for at least one month.

ptsd symptoms

PTSD can only be diagnosed by a medical doctor with experience with mental illnesses, such as a psychiatrist or psychologist.

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Treatment for Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder

gooden-center-ptsd-treatment-Image-of-war-veteran-after-mental-breakdown-during-psychiatric-treatmentPTSD is treated using a combination of medication and therapy. In most cases, post-traumatic stress disorder treatment heavily depends on the individual, their state of mind, the trauma, and whether or not it is ongoing. For example, an individual who has experienced a car accident and is now suffering from PTSD will likely be recommended to psychotherapy first. An individual who is suffering from PTSD following long-term exposure to spousal abuse must be treated holistically, removing the cause of the trauma before treating the trauma itself.

Medication for PTSD

Medication was once the first and primary treatment for PTSD. Today, that’s no longer the case. However, many people with PTSD will still receive medications, such as short-term benzodiazepines, to remove the immediacy of anxiety caused by PTSD. Other medications frequently used to treat PTSD include antidepressants such as Selective-Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors (SSRIs), sleep medications, and muscle relaxers. However, these medications are only intended to treat the temporary symptoms of PTSD while patients undergo primary treatment, or psychotherapy.

Psychotherapy for PTSD

Psychotherapy, including cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) are the primary treatment for PTSD, typically delivered through either a hospital, an inpatient residential treatment center, or an outpatient treatment center. Here, individuals undergo programs ranging from 40-90 days or more, with therapies focused on improving behavior, reducing avoidance, and resolving trauma. Most post-traumatic stress disorder treatment programs will also include specific treatments to help individuals manage relationships, stress, social life, job, and family life, with changes dependent on the individual and their life.

Nearly all PTSD is based on either cognitive behavioral therapy or one of its derivatives, which may include DBT, EMDR, motivational therapy, acceptance therapy, etc. Two factors that are almost always included in PTSD treatment include:

exposureExposure Therapy – Exposure therapy gradually exposes individuals to the trauma using writing, imagination, or visits to places where events happened, followed by sessions to help the individual resolve emotions. Exposure therapy heavily integrates tools to manage and understand emotions, to manage stress, and to develop life skills that will reduce stress.

counsellingCognitive Restructuring – Cognitive restructuring is designed to help people make sense of memories, emotions, and experience. This therapy approaches these feelings from a scientific perspective, helping patients to understand what’s really going on, why, and what they can do about it.

In most cases, treatment centers will also offer complementary therapies to help reduce stress, improve emotional management and regulation, and to build healthy coping mechanisms.


PTSD Treatment Centers

Most individuals can seek out treatment from a variety of sources including psychiatrists, treatment centers, and counselors. Treatment centers deliver full-length PTSD treatment programs in inpatient or residential and outpatient settings.

Residential – Residential treatment involves staying at a treatment center, typically for 6 or more weeks. This approach offers individuals a break from their environment and any daily stress, while offering an immersive and fully personalized approach to therapy. Treatment typically includes group and individual therapy alongside counseling, peer sessions and activities, and complementary therapies.

Outpatient – Outpatient therapy is a lighter approach to treating post-traumatic stress disorder, where individuals continue to go to work or school, sleep in their own home, and only show up to therapy in the morning or evenings. These programs are lighter but can be significantly effective as well.

If you or a loved one is struggling with PTSD, it’s important to get help. In some cases, PTSD will simply resolve on its own after 6-12 months. In others, it will continue to worsen, resulting in complications such as depression, anxiety, suicidal ideation, and panic attacks. PTSD significantly impacts quality of life, may impair an individual’s ability to function in normal social, work, or family settings. Treatment is accessible and it will help you or your loved one to get their life back.

Get help today and start a new life.

CALL 800-931-9884