PTSD (Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder)

Definition

PTSD is a type of anxiety disorder that can develop after experiencing, witnessing, or being associated with a terrifying event or ordeal.

Overview and Facts

What is PTSD?

People with PTSD experience ongoing stress, fear, nervousness, and other problems including work and relationship difficulties after they have experienced or witnessed a traumatic event. These events include:

  • war or terrorism
  • natural disasters (hurricane, for example)
  • physical or sexual assault
  • serious automobile or work-related accidents
  • the unexpected death of a loved one.

Anyone can develop PTSD, including children.

What are the symptoms of PTSD?

Symptoms often begin within three months of the event, but in some cases can begin years later. They can include:

Recall/Reliving the event through:

  • ongoing and intrusive memories
  • flashbacks
  • dreams and nightmares
  • significant dates or anniversaries.

Avoidance of reminders that recall the event such as:

  • people
  • places
  • situations
  • activities.

Hyper-arousal:

  • irritability
  • angry outbursts
  • problems sleeping
  • trouble concentrating
  • feeling jumpy or being easily startled.

Negative thoughts and/or moods
These often center around issues of blame, guilt, or loss associated with the event.

Complications associated with PTSD

PTSD can disrupt your health, job, relationships, and overall enjoyment of life. It can also put you at added risk for other mental health problems such as:

  • anxiety and/or depression
  • abuse of alcohol or other drugs
  • eating disorders
  • thinking about or attempting suicide.
How is PTSD Diagnosed?

Symptoms must persist for at least a month after the traumatic event took place. Diagnosis may include a physical exam and complete medical history. This can be followed by a referral to a mental health professional. He or she may use certain assessment tools and specially designed interview questions to make an evaluation.

How is PTSD treated?

PTSD can often be effectively treated using one or more of the following:

  • medication
  • psychotherapy (for example, cognitive behavioral therapy, acceptance and commitment therapy (ACT), group and/or family therapy, etc.)
  • addressing and treating related conditions such as depression, alcohol abuse, etc.
  • skills training to help you better cope with symptoms.