Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is a mental illness that occurs as a result of experiencing a traumatic life event. Usually, this event is emotionally terrifying, physically harmful, or both. Some common examples of situations that may lead to PTSD are sexual assault or rape, war, natural disaster, witnessing or being involved in a tragic accident, child abuse, or being the victim of another type of violent crime.
PTSD is classified as an anxiety disorder, because anxiety is the primary symptom. It can manifest itself in several ways. Flashbacks, or reliving the event in one’s mind and repeatedly experiencing the emotional pain, are common among people who suffer from PTSD. Other signs include nightmares, aggression, emotional numbness, irritability, fear, guilt, self-destructive behavior, hallucinations, insomnia, relationship problems, hopelessness, trouble concentrating, avoiding thinking about the event, and loss of interest in things that brought happiness in the past. It’s not necessary to experience all of these things in order to have PTSD. This disorder can arise immediately after an event or years later, and it ranges from mild to very severe.
The primary method of treating PTSD is usually psychotherapy, specifically cognitive-behavioral therapy. A counselor (like those at The Orchid Recovery Center) can help the patient learn how to process and deal with the event. Relaxation techniques like meditation and deep breathing can help the patient to manage and eventually eliminate anxiety symptoms. Medication can also be very beneficial, especially for those with extreme anxiety. Self-help groups and support from family and friends can greatly increase the effectiveness of professional treatment. A variety of new and experimental treatments are also being used for PTSD.
PTSD is a real, diagnosable disorder. There is no reason why anyone should have to suffer in silence or be ashamed of having PTSD. Help is available from many different sources, including psychologists, community mental health clinics, employee assistance programs, hospitals, and religious leaders. Some people choose to begin by visiting their family doctor and getting a referral for further care. Insurance plans and Medicaid will usually help pay for mental health treatment. Lower-cost options include community clinics, university programs, and some veterans’ programs.
Authoritative Health and Medical Resources on PTSD
National Institute of Mental Health A great source of information from the United States Government
FamilyDoctor.org By the American Academy of Family Physicians
American Psychological Association
Especially for Veterans