PTSD

Post Traumatic Stress Disorder

The National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) defines Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) as a disorder that develops in some people who have experienced a shocking, scary, or dangerous event.  

 

Most people will experience a range of reactions after trauma and recover from initial symptoms naturally, however, those who continue to experience problems and feel stressed or frightened even when they are not in danger may be diagnosed with PTSD. To be diagnosed with PTSD, an adult must have all of the following for at least 1 month:

  • At least one re-experiencing symptom

  • At least one avoidance symptom

  • At least two arousal and reactivity symptoms

  • At least two cognition and mood symptoms

Not every traumatized person develops ongoing (chronic) or even short-term (acute) PTSD. Not everyone with PTSD has been through a dangerous event. Some experiences, like the sudden, unexpected death of a loved one, can also cause PTSD.

PTSD SYMPTOMS

In addition to using the DSM-5 manual to assess for PTSD criteria, a medical professional will likely want to complete a physical examination to check for medical problems that could be contributing to or causing symptoms.

 

Symptoms usually begin early, within 3 months of the traumatic incident, but sometimes they begin years afterward. Symptoms must last more than a month and be severe enough to interfere with relationships or work to be considered PTSD.​​

Re-experiencing Symptoms

​Re-experiencing symptoms may cause problems in a person’s everyday routine. The symptoms can start from the person’s own thoughts and feelings. Words, objects, or situations that are reminders of the event can also trigger re-experiencing symptoms.

  • Bad dreams​

  • Frightening thoughts​​

  • Flashbacks—reliving the trauma over and over, including physical symptoms like a racing heart or sweating

Avoidance Symptoms

​Things that remind a person of the traumatic event can trigger avoidance symptoms. These symptoms may cause a person to change his or her personal routine. For example, after a bad car accident, a person who usually drives may avoid driving or riding in a car.

  • Avoiding thoughts or feelings related to the traumatic event​​

  • Staying away from places, events, or objects that trigger traumatic experience

Arousal and Reactivity Symptoms

​Arousal symptoms are usually constant, instead of being triggered by things that remind one of the traumatic events. These symptoms can make the person feel stressed and angry. They may make it hard to do daily tasks, such as sleeping, eating, or concentrating.

  • Being easily startled​

  • Feeling tense or “on edge”

  • Being easily startled​​

  • Feeling tense or “on edge”

Cognition and Mood Symptoms

​Cognition and mood symptoms can begin or worsen after the traumatic event but are not due to injury or substance use. These symptoms can make the person feel alienated or detached from friends or family members.

  • Trouble remembering the key features of the traumatic event

  • Negative thoughts about oneself or the world

  • Distorted feelings like guilt or blame

  • Loss of interest in enjoyable activities