Experiencing or witnessing a traumatic event might make you question your safety, security and sense of control. If these feelings persist over time, you (or someone you love) may have PTSD.
What is PTSD?
As its name suggests, Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) is mental health condition that can develop after experiencing or witnessing a traumatic event. What constitutes trauma varies from person to person, but the common defining thread is a fear that your life or others’ lives are in danger.
- Combat exposure
- Child sexual or physical abuse
- Terrorist attack
- Sexual or physical assault
- Serious accident, like a car wreck
- Natural disaster, like a fire, tornado, hurricane, flood, or earthquake
What are the symptoms of PTSD?
PTSD symptoms usually start soon after the traumatic event, but they may not appear until months—or even years—later. While the symptoms may come and go, if they persist for more than four weeks, cause you great distress, or interfere with your personal or professional life, it may be time to consider treatment.
The symptoms of PTSD fall into four general categories:
1. Reliving the event (also called re-experiencing symptoms)—You may have bad memories or nightmares. You even may feel like you're going through the event again. This is called a flashback.
2. Avoiding situations that remind you of the event—You may try to avoid situations or people that trigger memories of the traumatic event. You may even avoid talking or thinking about the event.
3. Negative changes in beliefs and feelings—The way you think about yourself and others may change because of the trauma. You may feel fear, guilt, or shame. Or, you may not be interested in activities you used to enjoy. This is another way to avoid memories.
4. Feeling keyed up (also called hyperarousal)—You may be jittery, or always alert and on the lookout for danger. Or, you may have trouble concentrating or sleeping.
Other issues can occur alongside, or as a result of PTSD, impacting your career and relationships. Examples include:
- Feelings of hopelessness, shame, or despair
- Depression or anxiety
- Substance abuse (drinking or drug addictions)
- Chronic pain or other physical symptoms
Because they are often related, treatment for PTSD will also address these other issues. The coping skills you learn in treatment can be applied to both PTSD and these coexisting problems.
What causes PTSD?
While most people who experience or witness a traumatic event will likely feel some stress-related symptoms during or after the event, not everyone will develop PTSD.
Some of the factors that determine whether or not you develop PTSD include:
- How intense the trauma was or how long it lasted
- If you were injured or lost someone important to you
- How close you were to the event
- How strong your reaction was
- How much you felt in control of events
- How much help and support you got after the event
Can children have PTSD?
Children can also experience PTSD. As children get older, their symptoms tend to be more similar to those of adults. Depending on their age, children may also exhibit other symptoms specific to their age group, including:
- Children age birth to age 6 may get upset if their parents are not close by, have trouble sleeping, or suddenly have trouble with toilet training or going to the bathroom.
- Children age 7 to 11 may act out the trauma through play, drawings, or stories. Some have nightmares or become more irritable or aggressive. They may also want to avoid school or have trouble with schoolwork or friends.
- Children age 12 to 18 have symptoms more similar to adults: depression, anxiety, withdrawal, or reckless behavior like substance abuse or running away.
What is the treatment for PTSD?
Dealing with painful memories can be difficult. It might be impossible to imagine feeling comfortable discussing them. But ignoring them won’t make them disappear. Keeping your feelings bottled up often manifests in other symptoms.
Treatment for PTSD can help you manage its symptoms so that they no longer interfere with living your best life. Sometimes, treatment involves the use of medication, prescribed by a psychiatrist or other medical doctor, in conjunction with psychotherapy, or counseling.
Therapy allows you to explore your feelings in a safe environment. You’ll be guided by trained professionals who facilitate a deeper understanding of your emotions and teach you new ways to cope.
At Ambre Associates, our therapists all have a strong base in psychodynamic thought and practice. This foundation helps us better understand our patients’ unconscious dynamics. What does that mean for you? We go beyond simply treating your symptoms. We equip you with the awareness, understanding and tools to make lasting changes that can transform your life.
No matter what you’ve experienced in the past, the good news is that there is hope. You can feel better.
It’s time to live the life you deserve.
If you think you might be suffering from PTSD and would like to learn more about treatment with one of our qualified trauma therapists, please contact us by submitting this form, or by phone at 847-729-3034. We’ll be happy to answer any questions you might have.