There was a time when most people thought of post-traumatic stress disorder — or PTSD — in terms of soldiers who returned home from combat. Today, we know that anyone can develop PTSD at any age, and it can stem from many types of traumas.
Individuals who experience a car wreck, physical or sexual assault, witness a violent crime, a natural disaster, or the sudden loss of a loved one can develop a prolonged feeling of stress or fright long after they’re no longer in danger. Someone who wasn’t directly impacted by a traumatic event may also develop PTSD when they discover that loved one close to them has been involved in one.
PTSD affects people differently. The symptoms — which can develop soon after the traumatic event or appear months later — tend to be categorized into four different types:
- Re-experiencing symptoms (flashbacks, nightmares)
- Avoidance symptoms (staying busy, avoiding related places and activities)
- Arousal and reactivity symptoms (angry outbursts, irritability)
- Cognition and mood symptoms (trouble concentrating, feeling helpless)
These symptoms can impede a person’s everyday functions and relationships, and rarely get better with time alone. PTSD treatment often includes a combination of talk therapy and medication. Working with a mental health professional to learn to identify and manage trauma triggers can be life-changing for many suffering from PTSD. Certain medications can also help treat symptoms, including sadness, anger, depression, anxiety, and sleeplessness.
Untreated PTSD can cause a person to persistently re-experience their trauma and suffer from prolonged symptoms that negatively impact their everyday life. If you think that you are experiencing PTSD, talk to your physician today. They can help you determine whether you’re suffering from PTSD and, if necessary, refer you to a specialist. If you are experiencing thoughts of self-harm or suicide, please call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 800-273-TALK (8255) (if you are a veteran, dial this number and then press 1 to access the Veteran Crisis Line).