What is PTSD?

Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder can occur after a person has either experienced or witnessed a traumatic event, usually one that involved actual or threatened death, serious injury, or sexual violence.

After something like this happens, it is normal to feel scared, anxious, angry or sad. You may keep thinking about what happened, even when you try not to.  It may be difficult to sleep, eat and/or concentrate on things that used to be easy to do. It may also be hard to do your everyday activities, like going to work or doing things with your friends or family.

If you find that these things become worse and/or last longer than one month, it may be helpful to meet with a counselor to determine if PTSD is present.

What qualifies as a traumatic event?

Any situation in which you felt like you or someone you know was in danger. Examples include:

  • War (military personnel and civilians)
  • Domestic Violence
  • Sexual Assault
  • Childhood Sexual Abuse
  • Natural Disasters (hurricanes, fires, tornadoes, earthquakes, etc)
  • Physical Assaults, Robberies, Kidnappings, etc
  • Terror Attacks, Mass Shootings, etc
  • Car Accidents, Medical Catastrophes, etc

What are the symptoms of PTSD?

There are four main categories of symptoms. They may look different from person to person. In general, these include:

  • Re-experiencing symptoms
    • Things like nightmares, flashbacks, constantly thinking about what happened.
  • Avoidance symptoms
    • Trying to avoid situations or people that remind you of what happened. You may try to avoid thinking or talking about what happened.
  • Negative beliefs & moods
    • You may experience more sadness, anger, or fear. You might blame yourself for what happened. It may be hard to trust anyone.
  • Arousal symptoms
    • Things like feeling anxious or on edge, being on the look-out, startling easily, having difficulty sleeping or concentrating.

Who can get PTSD?

Anyone who has experienced a traumatic event (or multiple, repeated traumatic events). Most people who experience something really scary or dangerous will experience some of the symptoms listed.  Some people are able to recover within a few weeks or months.  For some people, these symptoms persist and might become worse over time.

What treatments are available?

  • Psychotherapies (talk therapy and psycho-education)
    • Cognitive Processing Therapy (CPT)
      • Understanding how one’s interpretation of trauma influences current functioning
    • Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR)
      • Uses bilateral stimulation (usually eye movements) to help reprocess traumatic memories into less triggering thoughts and feelings
    • Prolonged Exposure Therapy (PE)
      • Repeatedly exposing yourself to memories of the traumatic event during therapy sessions, and going to places that remind you of what happened, until you are no longer negatively triggered
  • Medications
    • Sometimes medications can help people alleviate or manage PTSD symptoms. These medications often times include antidepressants.  You should consult with a physician and/or psychiatrist to assess if medications would be appropriate.  It is usually recommended that medications be used in conjunction with psychotherapy.

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