What is PTSD?

PTSD stands for Posttraumatic Stress Disorder. This is a mental health condition that people sometimes develop after experiencing trauma. People with PTSD often experience flashbacks, anger, and intrusive thoughts about the trauma that triggered the disorder. While popular culture connects PTSD to combat veterans, anyone can develop it as a response to any kind of trauma.

What is Trauma?

The term “trauma” refers to a person’s response to a seriously disturbing or distressful event. Events that trigger a trauma response are so severe that it interferes with a person’s ability to cope and may lessen the person’s sense of self.

Many people associate PTSD with war, and it’s true that combat veterans have higher rates of PTSD because they are exposed to more violence than most people. However, any traumatic event can cause this response. Some of the most common events that cause PTSD include being the victim of or witnessing:

  • Rape and sexual assault
  • Robbery
  • Physical assault
  • Terrorist attacks
  • Neglect and abuse from caregivers
  • Natural disasters
  • Domestic violence
  • Mass shootings
  • Vehicle accidents
  • Sudden death of a loved one
  • Any other violence or gore

All of these events can cause a trauma response. Sometimes, that trauma results in PTSD.

How Common is PTSD?

Approximately 7.7 million adults in the United States live with PTSD at any given time. Children and teens can also develop PTSD, but research on the number of minors with PTSD is less reliable. People with or without pre-existing mental illness can develop PTSD. However, people are more likely to develop the disorder if they live with substance abuse disorder, depression, or anxiety.

Types of PTSD Symptoms

Mental health care providers categorize PTSD symptoms into four distinct types:

  • Avoidance: People with this type of PTSD avoid talking about their feelings or processing trauma in any way. They may also avoid anything that could remind them of what happened.
  • Intrusive memories: Patients with these symptoms have flashbacks, nightmares, and obsessive thoughts about the original trauma.
  • Changes in physical and emotional reactions: These symptoms may cause people to be easily startled or always feeling on-guard.
  • Negative changes in thinking and mood: Patients have intrusive negative thoughts about themselves, the trauma, or the world more broadly. These symptoms can also cause problems with memory and relationships.

Each person’s life experiences, demographics, and personality can affect how PTSD manifests for them. Furthermore, the type of trauma can impact how PTSD presents. Two people could live through the same exact trauma and have different PTSD symptoms.

Types of PTSD Treatment

Unfortunately, many people with PTSD believe their symptoms are so severe that treatment cannot help. It’s vital for anyone with PTSD to know this important fact: mental health care can help.

Your options for PTSD treatment include:

  • Individual therapy
  • Group therapy
  • Medication

In individual therapy, providers can use a combination of different techniques to help people with PTSD. Depending on the patient’s needs and goals, a therapist could recommend different types of therapy, including:

  • Cognitive Behavioral Therapy
  • CBT
  • Exposure Therapy
  • And more

Each individual with PTSD has their own experiences and needs. We tailor our mental health care plans to each patient.