Home » Understanding the Symptoms of PTSD

News stories about soldiers in war zones or returning from military conflict commonly mention the term PTSD or post-traumatic stress disorder. In the past, PTSD was also known as shell shock or combat stress reaction. However, mental health professionals now know that PTSD can also develop outside of military situations. In fact, PTSD is more common than people think.

What is PTSD:

Post-traumatic stress disorder is a condition that occurs in more than three million individuals a year. People with this mental health disorder have a difficult time recovering after either experiencing or witnessing a terrifying event. As a mental health condition, this disorder may last for years and if triggered, generates flashbacks of the original event. These flashbacks are also often accompanied by intense emotional and physical reactions. People who have PTSD may experience stress or fear even when they are not in danger.

These traumatic events may include domestic violence, vehicle crashes, violent crime as well as military combat. While it is normal for people to have some level of anxiety after such an event, this anxiety often dissipates over time. But for individuals with PTSD, this anxiety is more intense and keeps coming back. This means the original traumatic experience is relived through nightmares, intrusive memories and flashbacks. These vivid memories are why people with undiagnosed PTSD can experience problems with relationships and have difficulties with everyday activities.

Symptoms of PTSD:

The onset of fear triggers a “fight-or-flight” response in many people. This is a typical reaction meant to protect a person from harm. Most people experience a range of emotions after a traumatic event, with recovery from the initial symptoms occurring overtime. However, people who continue to experience problems could have developed PTSD.

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

Some of the main symptoms of PTSD include:

  • Re-experiencing the traumatic event through intrusive memories, flashbacks, nightmares, or intense mental or physical reactions when reminded of the trauma.
  • Avoidance and numbing, such as avoiding anything that reminds you of the trauma, being unable to remember aspects of the ordeal, a loss of interest in activities and life in general, feeling emotionally numb and detached from others and a sense of a limited future.
  • Hyperarousal, including sleep problems, irritability, hypervigilance, feeling jumpy or easily startled, angry outbursts, and aggressive, self-destructive, or reckless behavior.
  • Negative thought and mood changes like feeling alienated, depressed and alone. This may also include difficulty concentrating and feelings of mistrust, guilt, shame or self-blame.

PTSD and Depression:

Major events like natural disasters and terrorist attacks can have a major impact on individuals and society. Most psychiatric research on disasters has focused on post-traumatic stress disorder, so there is more data on the occurrence of PTSD. However, there appears to be a correlation between major depressive disorder (MDD) and PTSD.

Studies have found that rates of PTSD following disasters average around 20 percent, with highest rates moving up to 35 percent following the most severe disasters. In comparison, MDD rates range from 13 to 31 percent, in a review of 5 psychiatric studies.

The question is often asked as to how often is PTSD and depression experienced together?

Depression is one of the more common diagnoses in people with PTSD. In fact, researchers have found that among people who have (or have had) a diagnosis of PTSD, approximately 48 percent to 55 percent also experienced current or previous depression. People who have had PTSD at some point in their lives are three to five times as likely as people without PTSD to also have depression.

Accompanies Other Mental Disorders:

Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder can accompany other behavioral health illnesses. The occurrence of the disease in individuals is often assisted with other disorders such as general anxiety, bipolar disorder, obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) and depression.

According to the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, PTSD is no longer seen as an anxiety disorder. This was an important change in the DSM-5. PTSD is now in a new category, Trauma- and Stressor-Related Disorders. The condition is sometimes associated with other mood states like depression as well as with angry or reckless behavior.

A PTSD Summary – Key Points to Remember:

Here are five major points to keep in mind in order to understand how PTSD can develop and be successfully treated.

  1. Post-traumatic stress disorder is a mental health condition in which a person has experienced a traumatic event that causes long-term stress.
  2. PTSD may be triggered by a traumatic event that happened to the person, someone close to them or even something they witnessed.
  3. PTSD can occur in both children and adults. The person may have flashbacks, stay away from stressful situations or withdraw emotionally.
  4. Diagnosis is made by an experienced healthcare provider when the symptoms last longer than 1 month.
  5. Treatment involves medicine and therapy to decrease the emotional effects of the disorder and increase coping skills.

If people are experiencing PTSD, it is important that they seek treatment as soon as possible. The sooner they are able to address the symptoms, the less likely the disorder will become worse. If you currently have PTSD and depression, it’s also important to get treatment as soon as possible. Similar to discussions about depression, individuals need to have an open line of communication with loved ones who are struggling with this condition.

There are many risk factors that can influence the development of PTSD in an individual. In order to correctly identify and address this illness, people should seek help from a trained and experience mental health profession. A doctor who is experienced in helping people with mental illnesses, such as a psychiatrist or psychologist, can diagnose and treat the mental health condition.

About Emerald Psychiatry & TMS Center:

The successful treatment of depression is one of the specialties at Emerald Psychiatry & TMS Center. Their psychiatry practice is focused on providing experienced and professional treatment options for the treatment of depression. They understand that they are here to serve the needs and concerns of their patients.

By forming a trusting partnership with their patients, Emerald Psychiatry generates a comprehensive treatment plan that is customized to an individual’s needs. Contact their staff for more information about treatment options for PTSD or other mental health concerns.

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Contributor:  ABCS RCM