Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)

Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is a psychiatric disorder that can occur in people who have witnessed or  experienced a traumatic event. Nearly everyone will experience a range of reactions after trauma, but with time and good self-care, most people will naturally recover from the initial symptoms. PTSD symptoms may start within a month of the traumatic event, but sometimes do not appear until years after the event.

Symptoms of PTSD:

  • Flashbacks, reliving the traumatic event as if were happening again
  • Severe emotional distress, physical reactions to reminders of the traumatic event
  • Nightmares or upsetting dreams about the traumatic event
  • Recurrent, distressing memories of the traumatic event
  • Irritability, angry outbursts or aggressive behavior
  • Feeling detached from friends and family
  • Lack of interest or pleasure in once enjoyed activities
  • Difficulty experiencing positive emotions
  • Avoidance of activities, people or places that remind you of the traumatic event
  • Easily startled or feelings of being “on edge”
  • Trouble sleeping

It is natural to have some of these symptoms for a few weeks after a traumatic event. However, when the symptoms last longer than a month, a person’s ability to function is affected. If there is no medical illness or substance use, PTSD may be the underlying cause of the symptoms.

Treatment

  • Medications. Antidepressants have been proven to help control PTSD symptoms. Other types of medications may be effective in treating sleep problems and nightmares.
  • Psychotherapy. Also known as “Talk Therapy,” involves talking with a mental health professional.

One effective treatment combines Cognitive Therapy and Exposure Therapy to teach patients the skills to identify triggers and manage the symptoms. They are taught to cope by facing the feelings and memories of traumatic events and practicing positive thinking about them.

It is important to realize that while treatment may take some time, patients can get better. In the last decade, research has led to significant progress in the treatment of PTSD. The treatment options available today are much improved.