Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is a mental health condition that can develop in a person who has experienced or seen a traumatic event that caused them fear or helplessness. Signs that are indicative of PTSD may appear between a month and several years after the terrifying event has taken place.
The symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder can be grouped into four categories, namely intrusion, avoidance, negative changes in cognition and mood, as well as increased arousal and reactivity, and may include recurrent nightmares about the traumatic experience, staying away from situations that can trigger memories of the terrifying event, difficulty remembering important details about what happened, and increased startle response.
PTSD can interfere with numerous aspects of a person’s life. The effects of post-traumatic stress disorder include anxiety, depression, impaired occupational functioning, chronic pain, as well as social isolation and withdrawal.
The condition also has certain features that aid in identifying the existence of PTSD in a person. The characteristics of post-traumatic stress disorder include emotional numbness, nightmares, flashbacks, depressive symptoms, and symptoms of fear, avoidance, anxiety, and arousal.
Treatment options for post-traumatic stress disorder mainly involve psychotherapy, medications, or a combination of both. PTSD treatment focuses on improving symptoms and helping individuals learn healthy coping skills.
Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is a psychiatric disorder that may occur in some people after going through or seeing a life-threatening event. This can include an accident, a natural disaster, military combat, sexual assault, or sudden loss of a loved one.
Otherwise known as shell shock or battle fatigue syndrome, PTSD can cause intense and lasting thoughts or feelings related to the traumatic experience that can even get worse over time.
Symptoms can vary from person to person and are indicative of what is PTSD. The signs of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) are listed below.
Other signs of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) include:
The symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder generally fall into four categories: intrusion, avoidance, negative changes in cognition and mood, and increased arousal and reactivity. However, manifestations of symptoms may slightly differ according to assigned sex at birth and gender.
For instance, women may experience PTSD differently than men. Women tend to be more sensitive to any reminder of their trauma, have an increased risk of being emotionally numb, are more likely to develop a heightened startle response, and tend to feel more depressed and anxious.
Evidence exists that women are twice as likely as men to develop post-traumatic stress disorder in their lifetimes. They also tend to experience a longer duration of PTSD symptoms before diagnosis and treatment occur. Furthermore, research suggests that women who experienced emotional numbness were more likely to engage in alcohol use as a coping mechanism.
Women also tend to wait for an average of four years before seeking treatment and in some cases, some never seek treatment at all. Untreated PTSD in women can cause physical symptoms such as headaches, stomach issues, and sexual dysfunction.
On the other hand, men are more prone to post-traumatic stress disorder symptoms such as anger, irritability, hypervigilance, and difficulty controlling their anger. As a result of trauma, men are more likely to engage in drug or alcohol abuse. They also ask for help for PTSD within only one year following the onset of symptoms.
Lastly, post-traumatic stress disorder appears to be especially common among individuals in the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, and intersex (LGBTQI) community. This is because they are more likely to go through traumatizing events that are related to discrimination due to their perceived sexual identity.
Symptoms of PTSD in LGBTQI individuals include overwhelming shame, increased startle response in anticipation of discrimination, anxiety, depression, as well as negative thoughts of self and others.
It is worth noting, however, that everyone experiences PTSD differently. That said, each person’s specific symptoms may vary according to their biology and the unique circumstances of their trauma.
The causes of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) include traumatic events, structural brain changes, a lack of social support from family and friends, as well as genetic susceptibility to PTSD.
Exposure to a plethora of traumatic events, such as military combat, domestic violence, sexual assault, and being diagnosed with a chronic or life-threatening illness can cause someone to develop post-traumatic stress disorder. Certain factors may also influence the development of the condition in a person and the severity of their symptoms.
Research also suggests that having a smaller hippocampus, which is the part of the brain that affects memory and emotion, increases a person’s risk of developing PTSD following a traumatic experience. Limited social support is another contributing factor to post-traumatic stress disorder. Evidence exists that a lack of a strong social support network is linked to more severe PTSD symptoms and suicidal ideation.
Having blood relatives with mental health risks or having a history of other mental health issues can also put someone at a heightened risk of developing PTSD after a traumatic event.
The condition is influenced by a complex interplay of factors. The risk factors for post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) are listed below.
Other risk factors for post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) include:
There are different subcategories of PTSD that also require different treatment methods. The types of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) are listed below.
Other types of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) include:
Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is diagnosed by performing a physical exam, doing a mental health screening, and comparing the patient’s symptoms with the diagnostic criteria for post-traumatic stress disorder indicated in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5).
Although there are no specific lab tests intended to diagnose PTSD, the doctor may perform a physical exam and obtain a complete medical history of the patient to rule out any physical illness that may mimic the symptoms of the disorder.
Once other medical conditions have been ruled out, an individual may be referred to a mental health professional, such as a psychiatrist or psychologist, who is specially trained to make a diagnosis of PTSD. The patient may then undergo a mental health screening, which uses screening tools to evaluate their symptoms and other potential co-existing psychiatric illnesses.
The reported PTSD symptoms are then assessed for a diagnosis and the mental health professional makes a formal diagnosis if the patient meets the diagnostic criteria for post-traumatic stress disorder as stated in the DSM-5.
On average, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) begins in a person’s early 20s. Although anyone, children and adolescents included, can develop PTSD, this is the typical age of onset for the condition.
The course of the disorder also varies from person to person and may depend on the types of PTSD someone is diagnosed with, their symptoms, and whether prompt treatment is sought by the patient. Depending on these factors, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) may last anywhere between a few months to a few years and may even become chronic in some people.
Estimates of the worldwide prevalence of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) range from 3.9% to 5.6%. Its symptoms can cause mild to severe impairment in an individual’s occupational and social functioning. Around 1.5% of adults with PTSD will suffer from severe impairment.
Furthermore, in a World Health Organization study of 21 countries, as many as 10 percent of respondents have been exposed to trauma in the past year. Nearly all of these people will go on to develop post-traumatic stress disorder.
Individuals who are at risk for post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) include war veterans, victims of natural disasters and violent crimes, as well as people who have been through childhood physical abuse, sexual assault, accidents, or other terrifying events.
The condition was first described in military veterans, hence the terms shell shock and combat stress. Military service members are exposed to different types of traumatic events that may lead to post-traumatic stress disorder, including combat exposure, discharging a weapon, and witnessing life-threatening injuries or death.
Survivors of natural disasters, physical or sexual abuse, assault, and violent crimes are also at an elevated risk of developing PTSD. Witnessing or living through these events can cause trauma due to their physical, emotional, and psychological effects on the victims.
Even though some people recover within a few months, others may have symptoms for longer periods of time. In some cases, the illness may also be constantly recurring.
Treatment for PTSD can help manage symptoms and assist afflicted individuals in developing better coping strategies. If left untreated, PTSD can cause significant physical, social, and psychological impairment. The treatment options for post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) are listed below.
People with PTSD have recurrent involuntary memories and upsetting thoughts or feelings related to their trauma. These negative effects of post-traumatic stress disorder tend to persist over longer periods, leading to significant impairments to an individual’s physical, social, and occupational functioning.
A person with PTSD often appears to be distant from others and may seem uninterested in social activities. These make it harder for them to interact with and relate to other people, taking a toll on personal relationships as well as their family life.
Yes, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) can cause damage to the brain by inflicting lasting changes in certain brain areas such as the amygdala, hippocampus, and prefrontal cortex. The amygdala, which is the part of the brain that processes fear and threatening stimuli, becomes hyperactive when a person has PTSD. Amygdala hyperactivity can cause an exaggerated response and instantly trigger panic, which could explain PTSD symptoms such as elevated startle response as well as an abnormally heightened state of anxiety.
On the other hand, the hippocampus is a region of the brain that shows reduced activity and volume in people with the illness. The shrinking of the hippocampus can cause memory loss and may make it difficult for afflicted individuals to distinguish between the past and present. As a result, a person’s ability to calm themselves in places that remind them of their traumatic experience may be affected.
The prefrontal cortex is another area of the brain that tends to weaken in someone with post-traumatic stress disorder. Another PTSD definition is that it is a disorder of fear dysregulation. And a dysfunction in the prefrontal cortex may cause difficulty in regulating fear, thoughts, actions, and other emotions.
Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and depression are closely related, as the two conditions frequently co-occur and the latter is most frequently present in people with PTSD. Moreover, PTSD and depression are connected as they can share similar symptoms, such as sleep problems, anger outbursts, aggression, and loss of interest in activities once enjoyed.
Both illnesses can result from experiencing traumatic events and can also interfere with a person’s daily functioning. Additionally, individuals who have had post-traumatic stress disorder at some point in their lives have three to five times increased risk of developing depression than others who did not struggle with PTSD.
However, one key difference between post-traumatic stress disorder and depression lies within their starting point. PTSD appears to be always triggered by a traumatic event. And while depressive disorders can also stem from the same traumatic experiences that cause PTSD, depression can be caused by medical conditions, chronic stress, and difficult life circumstances, as well.
PTSD treatment aims to relieve symptoms and eliminate avoidance. However, the presence of depression alongside post-traumatic stress disorder may complicate the treatment process. In this case, treatment options should take a holistic approach and be geared towards treating both illnesses at the same time.
Yes, there are support groups for post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) that people can turn to for social support. The support groups for post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) are listed below.