What is PTSD?

Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is a mental health condition that is triggered after experiencing or witnessing a traumatic event that involved the actual or possible threat of death, violence, or serious injury. The most common events leading to PTSD include combat exposure, childhood physical abuse, sexual violence, physical assault, being threatened with a weapon, or an accident. PTSD affects 3.5% of U.S. adults every year and an estimated one in 11 people will be diagnosed with PTSD in their lifetime. 

How do I know if I have PTSD?

Most people who go through a traumatic event will have some temporary difficulty adjusting and coping after which they usually get better. For some people however, the symptoms only worsen, lasting for months and even years, and interfering with day-to-day functioning. These symptoms generally fall into four types: avoidance, intrusive memories, negative changes in mood and thinking, and changes in physical and emotional reactions. Symptoms can vary in intensity over time, and may not appear until years after the event.

What is causing my PTSD?

Individuals develop PTSD after going through or witnessing a traumatic event. However, doctors are not sure why some people develop PTSD and others don’t. The reasons can include a complex mix of factors, including:

  • The amount and severity of trauma one has experienced in one’s life
  • Inherited mental health risks
  • Temperament
  • The individual way one’s brain regulates the chemicals and hormones released in response to stress

There are certain risk factors that make it more likely that one will develop PTSD including having a stressful job that exposes on to traumatic events, having relatives with mental health illnesses, and experiencing other trauma earlier in life. 

When should I see my doctor?

If your symptoms last for more than a month, are severe, and are causing significant problems in social situations, work, or relationships, it may be time to speak with a mental health professional. Getting treatment as soon as possible can help prevent PTSD symptoms from getting worse.

What treatment is available for PTSD?

Those with PTSD can benefit from the following treatments:

  • Psychotherapy: different types of approaches can be used to reduce the symptoms of PTSD including cognitive therapy, which helps one recognize thinking patterns that keep one stuck; exposure therapy, which helps one safely face situations and memories that one finds frightening so as to learn to cope with them effectively; and eye movement desensitization and reprocessing (EMDR), which combines exposure therapy with a series of guided eye movements to help one process traumatic memories and change one’s reaction to them.
  • Medications: there are a number of medications that are effective in treating PTSD including antidepressants, anti-anxiety medications, and ketamine. 

If you are experiencing symptoms of PTSD, consider making an appointment and speaking with one of our licensed providers. 

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