PTSD is an anxiety-disorder that can develop after a person experiences a distressing, frightening, or stressful life event. PTSD is sometimes referred to as developing after “Shock Trauma” because the event that precipitated the disorder was like an unexpected jolt to the system that left the person feeling helpless, in fear for their life, or was a threat to their personal integrity.
The symptoms of PTSD can vary, depending upon the type of trauma experienced. However, there are 3 general categories of how symptoms present themselves: Reexperiencing, Avoidance, and Increased Arousal. A person diagnosed with PTSD may only experience some of these symptoms.
Reexperiences occurs when someone has intrusive or distressing thoughts, bad dreams, flashbacks, emotional or physical reactions about the trauma.
Avoidance happens when a person makes efforts to avoid thoughts and feelings associated with the trauma including losing interest in normal daily activities or activities that used to be enjoyed. Avoidance is also experienced when the person feels cut off or detached from others, cannot recall specific aspects of the trauma, are unable to feel certain emotions (such as anger), or changes their future plans due to the trauma.
Increase Arousal means that the person has trouble falling or staying asleep, has outbursts of anger or irritability, has trouble concentrating, is overly alert or more easily startled
PTSD can be successfully treated through several different modalities, including (but not limited to) Stress Inoculation Training, Exposure Therapy, Cognitive Processing Therapy, Body-Based Therapies, and medications. Additional treatments for the symptoms of PTSD may be beneficial as well (for example, Imagery Rehearsal Therapy for recurring nightmares).
It is important to recognize that everyone experiences trauma differently. Not everyone who experiences a stressful or dangerous event will develop PTSD – there are genetic, biological, and social factors that can provide a protective benefit for some people. In addition, those who do develop PTSD may find they need continual or periodic support for their symptoms, even after treatment. Others may be able to permanently recover.
If you are diagnosed with PTSD, please do not hesitate to reach out to your clinician with any questions, comments, or concerns.
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