PTSD (posttraumatic stress disorder) is a mental health concern that some people develop after experiencing or witnessing a life-threatening event, like combat, a natural disaster, a car accident, or sexual assault.
It’s normal to have upsetting memories, feel on edge, or have trouble sleeping after a traumatic event. At first, it may be hard to do normal daily activities, like go to work, go to school, or spend time with people you care about. Most people start to feel better after a few weeks or months, but if you don’t begin to feel better you may be experiencing PTSD symptoms.
Who Develops PTSD?
Anyone can develop PTSD at any age or any time. A number of factors may increase the chance that someone will have PTSD, many of which are not under that person’s control. PTSD maybe more common after certain types of trauma, like combat and sexual assault.
What Are the Symptoms of PTSD?
PTSD symptoms usually start soon after the traumatic event, but they may not appear until months or years later. They also may come and go over many years. If the symptoms last longer than four weeks, cause you great distress, or interfere with your work or home life, consult a professional.
There are four types of PTSD symptoms, but they may not be exactly the same for everyone. Each person experiences symptoms in their own way.
- Reliving the event (also called re-experiencing symptoms).Memories of the traumatic event can come back at any time. You may feel the same fear and horror you did when the event took place. For example:
- You may have nightmares.
- You may feel like you are going through the event again. This is called a flashback.
- You may see, hear, or smell something that causes you to relive the event. This is called a trigger. News reports, seeing an accident, or hearing a car backfire are examples of triggers.
- Avoiding situations that remind you of the event.You may try to avoid situations or people that trigger memories of the traumatic event. You may even avoid talking or thinking about the event. For example:
- You may avoid crowds, because they feel dangerous.
- You may avoid driving if you were in a car accident or if your military convoy was bombed.
- If you were in an earthquake, you may avoid watching movies about earthquakes.
- You may keep very busy or avoid seeking help because it keeps you from having to think or talk about the event.
- Negative changes in beliefs and feelings.The way you think about yourself and others changes because of the trauma. This symptom has many aspects, including the following:
- You may not have positive or loving feelings toward other people and may stay away from relationships.
- You may forget about parts of the traumatic event or not be able to talk about them.
- You may think the world is completely dangerous, and no one can be trusted.
- Feeling keyed up (also called hyperarousal). You may be jittery, or always alert and on the lookout for danger. You might suddenly become angry or irritable. This is known as hyperarousal. For example:
- You may have a hard time sleeping.
- You may have trouble concentrating.
- You may be startled by a loud noise or surprise.
- You might want to have your back to a wall in a restaurant or waiting room.
Will People with PTSD Get Better?
Talk to a doctor or mental health care provider (like a psychiatrist, psychologist, or social worker) if your symptoms:
- Last longer than a few months
- Are very upsetting
- Disrupt your daily life
“Getting better” means different things for different people. There are many different treatment options for PTSD. Your symptoms don’t have to interfere with your everyday activities, work, and relationships.
What Treatments are Available?
There are two main types of treatment, psychotherapy (sometimes called counseling or talk therapy) and medication. Sometimes people combine psychotherapy and medication.
June is PTSD Awareness month and in an effort to help as many people as possible, Wednesday, June 27 has been named PTSD Screening Day.
Collin College has made a self-assessment available to students and encourages anyone who may be experiencing symptoms of post traumatic stress disorder or is concerned about a loved one to take the assessment to make an initial evaluation.
The online test is free and anonymous and while it does not offer diagnosis it may help explain symptoms and provide information about when and how to seek further assessment by a clinician.
For more information go to the PTSD: National Center for PTSD