What is post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)?

PTSD is a specific type of anxiety disorder that develops after you experience a traumatizing event such as a mass shooting, natural disaster, severe accident, or personal attack. Anyone can develop PTSD after a traumatic event, although statistically, women are twice as likely to be diagnosed with PTSD as men.

PTSD has been known by many names. During World War I and II, soldiers were diagnosed with shell shock or combat fatigue following their experiences in the trenches. Since the early 20th Century, psychiatrists and medical researchers increased their knowledge of PTSD and can offer customized treatments to help you recover.

What are the symptoms of PTSD?

In most cases, PTSD symptoms develop within three months of the experience, although your symptoms may not emerge until later when something triggers your memories. PTSD symptoms develop in four distinct categories.

Intrusive thoughts

Flashbacks and nightmares are two of the most common manifestations of PTSD-related intrusive thoughts. Flashbacks are extremely vivid memories that make you feel like you’re reliving the experience. Additionally, you may be plagued by less realistic, but equally intrusive, memories.

Avoidance behaviors

You may begin to avoid places and people who remind you of the trauma and trigger your intrusive thoughts or memories. Avoidance behaviors can significantly disrupt your life. For example, you may avoid driving on the street or using the intersection where you had an automobile collision. You might also try to suppress your memories or refuse to talk about the event.

Negative thoughts

PTSD can also cause feelings of horror, anger, blame, or guilt. You may also suffer from harmful thoughts such as:

  • “No one can be trusted”
  • “I’m bad”
  • “I shouldn’t have survived”

These thoughts and feelings can evolve into a loss of interest in previously enjoyed activities or a sense of detachment or estrangement from your friends or family.

Heightened arousal

Heightened arousal symptoms range from irritability and angry outbursts to reckless, dangerous, or self-destructive behaviors. For example, it’s common for people with PTSD to use alcohol or other substances irresponsibly, increasing their risk of substance abuse disorders.

How is PTSD treated?

The team at LifeStance Health offers customized treatment plans to help you recover from your PTSD. Your psychiatrist may prescribe medication to control some of your symptoms so you can focus your energy on exploring your memories and resolving your feelings in therapy sessions. You can learn to adjust your behavior.

If you’re concerned about PTSD, call LifeStance Health or schedule a consultation online today.