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What Is Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder – PTSD?

What is PTSD? Read on to learn more about its signs and symptoms, along with available treatment options.

What is Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder?

Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is a mental disorder that can develop in those who have been through or witnessed a traumatic event such as a natural catastrophe, accident, terrorist attack, war, or rape, as well as in those who have faced threats of sexual violence, death, or other serious harm. PTSD is often typecast as something only veterans are diagnosed with, but it often affects more people than we think.

PTSD Overview

Any person may experience PTSD. About 3.5% of American adults experience PTSD each year, and one in every eleven people will receive a diagnosis of the condition at some point in their lives. PTSD is twice as common in women as it is in men. 1

Long after the incident has passed, people with PTSD continue to endure intense, unsettling thoughts and sensations related to their experience. Flashbacks or dreams may cause them to relive the incident, they may experience sadness, fear, or rage, and they may feel distant or estranged from other people.

What Are the Signs and Symptoms of PTSD?

There are many different symptoms that can affect someone who has PTSD, and depending on the person, they may experience varying symptoms. However, the main symptoms of PTSD will be detailed below.

Re-Living the Traumatic Event

When the traumatic experience is brought to mind, a person with PTSD might relive the horrific experience through upsetting or unwelcome memories, severe nightmares, or flashbacks. It also entails feeling extremely distressed or experiencing strong physical reactions like heart palpitations or being unable to breathe.

Feeling Emotionally Numb

A person could feel cut off from friends and family, accuse himself or others of what transpired during or after the traumatic event, or lose interest in day-to-day activities. They could also experience negative emotions and ideas including dread, rage, guilt, or frequently feeling flat or numb.

Avoiding Reminders

These reminders could include routines, environments, people, ideas, or emotions that cause memories of the trauma.

Being Overly Alert

This could entail having difficulties falling asleep or staying awake, feeling agitated or irritated, acting recklessly, being easily startled, and being on guard at all times.

How Does Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder Affect Your Life?

PTSD can affect people’s lives in many ways, and can also bleed into other areas of your life as well. These can include:

  • Alcohol and drug use
  • Anxiety and depression
  • Thoughts about harming yourself or others
  • Problems at work and in your relationships

Types of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder

According to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fifth Edition (DSM-5), there are three main types of PTSD, including: 2

Complex PTSD

Complex PTSD is characterized by a string of stressful incidents that happened gradually and usually earlier in life.

Delayed Expression

This happens when a person starts experiencing symptoms of PTSD at least six months after the traumatic occurrence.


This subtype, classified specifically as "with dissociative symptoms,” requires symptoms of depersonalization or derealization in addition to meeting requirements for a PTSD diagnosis.

What Causes Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder?

The first element for PTSD diagnosis is direct or indirect exposure to a traumatic event, followed by symptoms falling into one of four categories: intrusion, avoidance, unfavorable changes in thoughts and emotions, and changes in arousal and reactivity.

The DSM-5 criteria additionally stipulates that the symptoms must not be brought on by any other medical condition or substance use, and need to last for at least a month before being able to lead to a diagnosis. The symptoms must also cause significant distress or interfere with someone’s daily living.

Dissociative Specification

Dissociative specification is when an individual meets the diagnostic requirements and exhibits high levels of either of the following in response to trauma-related stimuli:3

  • Depersonalization: Having the sensation of being aloof from oneself or an outside observer (e.g., feeling as if "this is not happening to me" or one was in a dream). 
  • Derealization: Feeling of distance, disconnection, or distortion (e.g., "things are not real").

On the other hand, delayed specification means that although symptoms may start right away, full diagnostic criteria are not met until at least six months following the trauma(s).

Are Some People More Likely to Develop PTSD Than Others?

There’s not often one signifier that shows whether some people develop PTSD as opposed to others. However, those that experience one of the following events may eventually develop PTSD as a result, although it’s not guaranteed. Instances that could lead to PTSD will be discussed below.

Certain Types of Trauma

Some traumas are more likely to result in PTSD than others, particularly those that are severe or life-threatening. PTSD can be brought on by a number of frequently reported incidents and situations. Physical assault, sexual assault, being exposed to warfare, or physical or sexual abuse during childhood could potentially lead to PTSD. 

Injury During the Event

If a person is wounded or physically assaulted during the event, there is a possibility that they could develop PTSD as well.

Lack of Support

The physical and mental effects of trauma are more likely to be more intense in people who do not have close relationships with their family or friends, as they often won’t have someone they can talk to about what help they could need.

Long-Lasting or Repeated Trauma

A person may be more susceptible to developing PTSD if they are repeatedly exposed to painful, traumatic situations that last for a long time.

Personal History of Anxiety or Depression

The likelihood of developing PTSD increases if a person has a history of substance misuse or other mental health issues like anxiety or depression.

Treatment For Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder

What is PSTD

There are many different treatments available for PTSD. Some of them include medication, including selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs), and trauma-focused therapy.

Cognitive Processing Therapy (CPT)

CPT typically lasts for twelve sessions and teaches patients how to identify, analyze, and change harmful trauma-related beliefs. By doing this, the patient reframes and conceptualizes the traumatic incident in order to lessen its long-lasting detrimental impact on present-day life. 4

Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR)

A systematic therapy that encourages the patient to pay attention to the traumatic memory for a brief period of time while also undergoing bilateral stimulation (usually eye movements) which is related to a decrease in the emotional intensity and vividness of the traumatic memories.

Prolonged Exposure Therapy

Exposure is a frequent intervention technique in cognitive behavioral therapy that aids patients in facing their concerns. A specific form is called prolonged exposure, which teaches patients how to approach traumatic memories, feelings, and circumstances gradually and safely.

Most people want to stay away from anything that makes them think about their trauma, but doing so only makes them more afraid. By actively learning that the trauma-related memories and cues are not hazardous and do not need to be avoided, a person can actively learn to minimize their PTSD symptoms by facing what has been avoided.

Can I Prevent PTSD After a Traumatic Event?

If an intervention happens within a specific time frame following trauma, it is sometimes possible to prevent or at least decrease the impact of PTSD. Here are some things you can do to help prevent PTSD even after a traumatic: 5

  • Ask for help and support
  • Believe that you can manage your emotions
  • Find positive meaning from the trauma
  • Focus on positive emotions and laughter
  • Help other people
  • Practice positive thinking
  • Talk to loved ones about the event
  • Think of yourself as a survivor instead of a victim

Get Help For Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder at Genesis Recovery

Receiving immediate support and assistance may prevent PTSD from worsening from typical stress reactions. This could entail turning to family and friends for comfort or contacting a mental health practitioner for a treatment session. Obtain the finest care for yourself or a loved one. Visit Genesis Recovery today!


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