Learn about post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and how PTSD symptoms can be treated in this comprehensive article.
Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is a mental health condition that occurs when someone experiences or witnesses a traumatic event. In the past, this disorder was known as “shell shock” and “combat fatigue” due to the significant number of soldiers experiencing PTSD symptoms during World War I and II. However, people can develop post-traumatic stress disorder at any age and for any type of traumatic event. Approximately one out of every eleven people will develop PTSD at least once.1
PTSD symptoms involve emotional and mental health disturbances. Either experiencing or witnessing a traumatic event can trigger its symptoms. Examples of traumatic events include childhood neglect, physical and verbal abuse, natural disasters, serious accidents, and war.
Most people who experience or witness a traumatic event have difficulty coping and adjusting. This may cause a person to experience the following:
PTSD symptoms can also cause other mental health concerns. These concerns can include depression, anxiety, substance abuse, and panic disorder.
Post-traumatic stress disorder is widespread. In the United States, an estimated twelve million adults receive a PTSD diagnosis in any given year. Women experience a higher rate of PTSD symptoms at 8%, compared to 4% of men. This may be due to an increased risk of sexual assault among women.2
There are many situations that can cause PTSD. Symptoms of PTSD can develop after experiencing a distressing, frightening, or stressful event. Common causes of post-traumatic stress disorder include:
Everyone has different reactions to traumatic events. The major factor in its development is how the person’s body reacts to stress. For instance, studies found that people with PTSD have higher stress hormone levels. Brain scans have also indicated differences in the brain. They show that PTSD is more prevalent in individuals with a smaller hippocampus (a part of the brain responsible for emotions and memory). 3
The following includes more factors that may play a role in developing PTSD:
Additionally, having a parent with a mental health condition has been shown to increase the likelihood of developing post-traumatic stress disorder.
Like any disorder, not everyone will experience the same symptoms. Nonetheless, there are many distinct signs and symptoms of PTSD. These symptoms are divided into four groups:
This group is characterized by reliving the experience through thoughts and memories. The symptoms include flashbacks, nightmares, intrusive thoughts, and hallucinations about the distressing event.
Avoidance symptoms include avoiding thoughts, people, places, and situations that remind the individual of the trauma. This can lead to feelings of detachment and isolation from family and friends. Avoidance can also lead to losing interest in activities that were once enjoyable.
Psychological symptoms of increased arousal and reactivity include:
This category can also cause physical symptoms. They include:
Cognitive and mood symptoms can include:
The patient must meet specific criteria for the diagnosis of post-traumatic stress disorder. The criteria are based on the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual for Mental Disorders, Fifth Edition (DSM-5). For a PTSD diagnosis, one must experience:4
The main treatment options for PTSD symptoms are medication and therapy. People respond to each treatment method differently. This can depend on the type of trauma, the length of exposure, and the patient’s health. Thus, it is important for medical professionals to create a personalized treatment plan based on their evaluation and assessment of each patient.
In individuals with post-traumatic stress disorder, the brain processes threats differently. This can result in an easy trigger of the “fight or flight” response. PTSD can also cause anxiety and depression. Doctors can prescribe certain medications to help balance the chemicals in the brain causing these responses. Medications that have shown effective in alleviating PTSD symptoms include:
Patients must talk to their doctors before taking any medications.
Therapy for post-traumatic stress disorder can help ease symptoms and improve self-esteem. The most effective forms of therapy for treating PTSD include:
Ripple Ranch Recovery is an addiction treatment center focused on recovery and mental health. We offer a variety of treatment options to help you on your journey to a higher quality of life and overcome PTSD symptoms. Our team of experienced healthcare professionals provides compassionate and individualized care. By developing a personalized treatment plan utilizing evidence-based techniques, we can ensure you will meet your recovery goals.
If you are experiencing PTSD symptoms, contact Ripple Ranch Recovery today. Our team is ready to answer any questions and help you begin your path to a healthy and positive life.