Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is a psychiatric disorder that can occur in people who have experienced or witnessed a traumatic event, such as a natural disaster, serious accident, terrorist act, war/combat, rape, or other violent personal assault.
PTSD affects approximately 3.5 percent of U.S. adults. An estimated 1 in 11 people will be diagnosed with PTSD in their lifetime. PTSD can cause symptoms such as flashbacks, nightmares and severe anxiety, as well as uncontrollable thoughts about the event.
PTSD symptoms can start within one month of a traumatic event, but sometimes symptoms don’t appear until years after its occurrence. These symptoms can interfere with the person’s daily tasks and can even cause significant problems in social or work situations and relationships.
PTSD symptoms are grouped into four types: intrusive memories, avoidance, negative thoughts and feelings, and physical and emotional reactions.
Intrusive memories include:
- Recurrent, unwanted distressing memories of the traumatic event
- Distressing dreams
- Flashbacks of the traumatic event
- Severe emotional distress or physical reactions to something that may remind one of the traumatic event
Some people may resist talking about what happened or how they feel about the traumatic event. Avoiding reminders of the traumatic event may include avoiding people, places, activities, objects, and situations that bring on distressing memories.
Negative thoughts and feelings
Symptoms of negative changes in thoughts and feelings may include:
- Negative thoughts about oneself, other people, or the world
- Hopelessness about the future
- Memory problems
- Difficulty maintaining close relationships
- Lack of interest in activities the person once enjoyed
- Feeling emotionally numb
Physical and emotional reactions
Symptoms of physical and emotional reactions (also known as arousal symptoms) may include:
- Being easily startled or frightened
- Always being on guard for danger
- Trouble sleeping
- Trouble concentrating
- Overwhelming guilt or shame
- Self-destructive behavior
PTSD can develop when one may go through, see, or learn about a traumatic event involving actual or threatened death, serious injury, or sexual violation. While it is unknown why some people get PTSD, as with most mental health problems, PTSD can be caused by a complex mix of:
- Stressful experiences
- Inherited mental health risks
- Inherited features of the person’s personality
- The way the person’s brain regulates the chemicals and hormones that the body releases in response to stress
At Mile High Psychiatry, we find a combination of therapy and medication to be a suitable treatment for PTSD in children and adults. Various forms of therapy can include cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT), interpersonal therapy (IPT), and problem-solving therapy. Medication needs will vary from patient to patient, depending on the severity of their disorder.
Have questions regarding depression for yourself or your child? Schedule an appointment with Mile High Psychiatry to learn more.