Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder is an anxiety disorder stemming from an individual’s personal experience with a traumatic event. This may include the threat of death or injury to oneself or others such as assault, combat, accident, natural disaster, or abuse. Although certain reactions to overwhelming experiences are expected, these reactions, if persistent over time, may interfere significantly with an individual’s functioning, relationships, and sense of self. PTSD may also develop after experiencing medical treatments and surgery in which a person experienced prolonged worry and fear. Without treatment, the symptoms of PTSD can persist and intensify with time, and can significantly impact an individual’s ability to function day-to-day.
PTSD may also develop after experiencing medical treatments and surgery in which prolonged worry and fear. Without treatment, the symptoms of PTSD can persist and intensify with time, and have devastating can significantly impact an individual’s ability to function day-to-day.
Indicators of PTSD may not emerge for months or even years after the event. Symptoms range from vague physical signs to intrusive memories to dramatic changes in mood, and include but are not limited to:
- Recurring, distressing memories of the event
- Flashbacks or feelings of reliving the event
- Chronic, upsetting dreams about the event
- Severe anxiety or physical reactions to reminders of the event
- Avoidance of thinking about or discussing the event
- Avoidance of people, places or activities that serve as reminders of the event
- Increased irritability or angry outbursts
- Difficulty sleeping
- Negative feelings about oneself or others
- Memory problems
- Loss of life enjoyment or sense of hopelessness about life
- Sense of guilt or shame
PTSD symptoms vary in intensity by individual, with time, and based on circumstances that serve as reminders of the traumatic experience.
Certain reactions to an overwhelming experience are natural and to be expected. With PTSD, however, those reactions persist and may eventually interfere with your sense of self and impair your ability to function in school, the workplace or social settings.
Without treatment, the symptoms of PTSD can grow worse and lead to increasingly negative feelings and social isolation. PTSD can also increase your risk for developing major depression, other anxiety disorders, substance abuse problems, or suicidal thoughts.
Seeking Help for PTSD
Treatment for potential PTSD should be sought if disturbing thoughts about a traumatic event occur for longer than a month, if feelings about the event are so strong that they impact your ability to function, or if PTSD symptoms are accompanied by suicidal thoughts.
Practical, structured therapy such as CBT is often effective in relieving PTSD. CBT helps you recognize recurring thought patterns that trigger symptoms, shows you how to put your memories in context, and provides you with techniques to progressively reduce and eliminate anxiety and other PTSD symptoms.