What is PTSD?
PTSD, or post-traumatic stress disorder, is a fairly common psychological disorder in which a person experiences intense or disturbing thoughts or feelings related to a past traumatic event. These episodes often last long after the traumatic event itself. While PTSD has a high rate of occurrence in veterans, PTSD can affect anyone at any age if they have experienced a shocking, scary, or dangerous event such as a natural disaster, serious accident, a terrorist act, war or combat, death threats, sexual violence, or serious injury. While PTSD is experienced by people of any gender, women are up to 2 times more likely to be diagnosed with PTSD at some point in their life. PTSD also disproportionately affects U.S. Latinos, Black Americans, and Indigenous Americans.
What are the signs and symptoms of PTSD?
Generally speaking, symptoms of PTSD fall into 4 different categories and can vary in severity:
Intrusion: Things like flashbacks, nightmares, or involuntary memories in which a person relives the traumatic event fall into this category.
Avoidance: Things like avoiding f or talking about the traumatic event fall into this category.
Changes in Cognition or Mood: Things like lapses in memory pertaining to the event, negative or distorted thoughts leading to self-blame or ongoing fear or shame, a noticeable decrease in once enjoyable activities, or being unable to experience positive emotions fall into this category.
Hyperarousal/Being on Guard: Things like increased irritability or anger, feeling jittery or on high alert, paranoia and difficulty concentrating or sleeping fall into this category.
PTSD can also come with a host of related conditions such as acute stress disorder, adjustment disorder, disinhibited social engagement disorder, reactive attachment disorder, and other general anxiety disorders. These disorders often affect a person’s ability to regulate their reactions and often affect interpersonal relationships with friends and family.
How can I help a loved one with PTSD?
Living with a loved one with PTSD can be difficult, however it is important to remember that they may not always have control over their actions or emotions. Your loved one’s nervous system is in a constant state of alert, causing them to constantly feel vulnerable or unsafe. This can often lead to irritability, anger, depression, or other symptoms that are not easily managed. Providing social support, such as taking cues from them on what situations make them feel safe, avoiding pressuring your loved one to talk about their experience except with a mental health professional or talking about it with them as often as they need to (so long as you are mentally and emotionally able to), and educating yourself about PTSD can be invaluable to improving your home life and the life of your loved one. Their mental health care provider can offer more tips on how best to support and care for your loved one. You can also find support groups for families and caregivers in our support group guide.
Do I have PTSD?
It is important to remember that not everyone who experiences a traumatic event will develop PTSD. In fact, most people will not develop PTSD. There are a few risk factors that increase the likelihood of developing PTSD such as:
Experiencing an injury
Seeing another person injured
Having little or no social support after the event
Having a history of mental illness or substance abuse.
If you believe you may have PTSD, speak to a mental health practitioner about diagnosis and treatment options. You may want to take this screening from Mental Health America to discuss with your primary care physician. How can I treat PTSD?
Psychotherapy and medication are two treatment options for those suffering from PTSD. It is important for those suffering to work with a mental health care provider with experience in treating PTSD. It manifests differently in everyone and therefore must be treated on a case-by-case basis. Seeking out support from friends and family, joining a support group, developing a healthy coping strategy, and being able to act and respond effectively despite feeling fear are all factors that may assist in recovery. The Hub CT offers a directory of free and low-cost mental health services. Download our resource guides and support group lists. You can also download the PTSD Coach app for supplementary help with symptoms when you aren’t able to speak with your mental health practitioner right away.
You can find additional information and resources here: