How do you know if you have PTSD?
PTSD develops after a terrifying ordeal that involved physical harm or the threat of physical harm. The person who develops PTSD may have been the one who was harmed, the harm may have happened to a loved one, or the person may have witnessed a harmful event that happened to loved ones or strangers.
It normally is associated with war veterans, but it can result from a variety of traumatic incidents, such as mugging, drug addiction, rape, torture, being kidnapped or held captive, child abuse, car accidents, train wrecks, plane crashes, bombings, or natural disasters such as floods or earthquakes. It can also happen if you are living with someone who suffers from drug addiction or alcoholism.
Symptoms -PTSD can cause many symptoms. These symptoms can be grouped into three categories:
1. Re-experiencing symptoms
- Flashbacks—reliving the trauma over and over, including physical symptoms like a racing heart or sweating
- Bad dreams
- Frightening thoughts.
- Re-experiencing symptoms may cause problems in a person’s everyday routine. They can startwithm the person’s own thoughts and feelings. Words, objects, or situations that are reminders of the event can also trigger re-experiencing.
2. Avoidance symptoms
- Staying away from places, events, or objects that are reminders of the experience
- Feeling emotionally numb
- Feeling strong guilt, depression, or worry
- Losing interest in activities that were enjoyable in the past
- Having trouble remembering the dangerous event.
- Things that remind a person of the traumatic event can trigger avoidance symptoms. These symptoms may cause a person to change his or her personal routine. For example, after a bad car accident, a person who usually drives may avoid driving or riding in a car.
3. Hyper-arousal symptoms
- Being easily startled
- Feeling tense or “on edge”
- Having difficulty sleeping, and/or having angry outbursts.
- Hyperarousal symptoms are usually constant, instead of being triggered by things that remind one of the traumatic events. They can make the person feel stressed and angry. These symptoms may make it hard to do daily tasks, such as sleeping, eating, or concentrating.
It’s natural to have some of these symptoms after a dangerous event. Sometimes people have very serious symptoms that go away after a few weeks. This is called acute stress disorder, or ASD. When the symptoms last more than a few weeks and become an ongoing problem, they might be PTSD. Some people with PTSD don’t show any symptoms for weeks or months.
How Widespread is PTSD?
PTSD affects about 7.7 million American adults, but it can occur at any age, including childhood. Women are more likely to develop PTSD than men, and there is some evidence that susceptibility to the disorder may run in families.
Anyone can get PTSD at any age. This includes war veterans and survivors of physical and sexual assault, abuse, accidents, disasters, and many other serious events.
Not everyone with PTSD has been through a dangerous event. Some people get PTSD after a friend or family member experiences danger or is harmed. The sudden, unexpected death of a loved one can also cause PTSD.
Not every traumatized person develops full-blown or even minor PTSD. Symptoms usually begin within 3 months of the incident but occasionally emerge years afterward. They must last more than a month to be considered PTSD. The course of the illness varies. Some people recover within 6 months, while others have symptoms that last much longer. In some people, the condition becomes chronic.
A doctor who has experience helping people with mental illnesses, such as a psychiatrist or psychologist, can diagnose PTSD. The diagnosis is made after the doctor talks with the person who has symptoms of PTSD.
To be diagnosed with PTSD, a person must have all of the following for at least 1 month:
- At least one re-experiencing symptom
- At least three avoidance symptoms
- At least two hyperarousal symptoms
- Symptoms that make it hard to go about daily life, go to school or work, be with friends, and take care of important tasks.
- PTSD is often accompanied by depression, substance abuse, or one or more of the other anxiety disorders.
The main treatments for people with PTSD are psychotherapy (“talk” therapy), medications, or both. Everyone is different, so a treatment that works for one person may not work for another. It is important for anyone with PTSD to be treated by a mental health care provider who is experienced with PTSD. Some people with PTSD need to try different treatments to find what works for their symptoms.
If someone with PTSD is going through an ongoing trauma, such as being in an abusive relationship, both of the problems need to be treated. Other ongoing problems can include panic disorder, depression, substance abuse, and feeling suicidal.
Remember, it is imperative to seek treatment for PTSD as early as possible. Symptoms can become more severe over time and for some people PTSD can last for many years. Call us immediately. We are here to help you with decisions about treatment.
Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) – Complex PTSD
Complex PTSD may be diagnosed in adults or children who have repeatedly experienced traumatic events, such as violence, neglect or abuse.
Complex PTSD is thought to be more severe if:
the traumatic events happened early in life
the trauma was caused by a parent or carer
the person experienced the trauma for a long time
the person was alone during the trauma
there is still contact with the person responsible for the trauma
As it may take years for the symptoms of complex PTSD to be recognized, a child’s development, including their behavior and self-confidence, can be altered as they get older.
Adults with complex PTSD may lose their trust in people and feel separated from others.
Symptoms of complex PTSD
The symptoms of complex PTSD are similar to symptoms of PTSD but may include:
feelings of shame or guilt
difficulty controlling your emotions
periods of losing attention and concentration – this is known as dissociation
physical symptoms – such as headaches, dizziness, chest pains and stomach aches
cutting yourself off from friends and family
destructive or risky behavior – such as self-harm, alcohol misuse or drug abuse
Treating complex PTSD
One of the key symptoms of complex PTSD is losing trust in people. If possible, people with complex PTSD are recommended to slowly start doing regular activities such as:
getting a job
taking on hobbies
It’s important to try and develop some feelings of trust. It may take some time, but a trusting relationship with a therapist will help treat complex PTSD.
Treatment from a therapist may be given in three stages, described below.
One of the first steps in treating complex PTSD may involve speaking with a therapist to learn how to control feelings of distrust and lose the feeling of being ‘disconnected’ from friends and family.
Certain techniques, known as ‘grounding’ techniques, may be able to help you separate an abusive or traumatic past from the present. The aim is to make the past seem less frightening and reduce the number of flashbacks you experience.
With time, you can begin to experience less anxiety and learn to cope with daily life.
Trauma-focused therapy may include:
certain types of psychotherapy
cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT)
eye movement desensitization and reprocessing (EMDR)
These treatments may help you to control any distressing thoughts but must be approached carefully to avoid making the situation worse.
The final stage is to begin to use these skills and techniques to develop better relationships with other people.
Medication, such as antidepressants, may still be recommended if psychotherapy isn’t possible or you feel unsafe.
Bottom line when it comes to PTSD
There are also inpatient and outpatient treatment options that can be very helpful for long-term recovery. Insurance can be tricky to maneuver when it comes to coverage. Contact us and we will walk you through the process.