Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, commonly referred to as PTSD, is a mental health disorder in which an individual experiences certain intense behaviors, including disordered anger, intrusive and obsessive thinking, flashbacks, and more. While often associated with veterans of combat, PTSD can happen to anyone who has experienced trauma or a traumatic brain injury.

PTSD is very intense for the individuals who have it, and it can leave them feeling as if they will never get better. With the right intervention, however, those with PTSD can improve their quality of life and begin to heal.

The Criteria for PTSD

The DSM-V identifies various criteria required for a diagnosis of PTSD. These include:

  • Avoidance: In avoidance, the patient avoids triggers associated with their trauma or traumas.
  • Intrusive memories: Patients with PTSD often experience intrusive and recurring thoughts related to their trauma.
  • Alterations in arousal and reactivity: The patient exhibits dramatic alterations in their physical and emotional health.
  • Negative alterations in cognitions and mood: Patients experience overly negative thinking, negative affect, and detachment from others.

Individuals with PTSD must exhibit some behaviors from all of these categories to get a diagnosis of PTSD. They must also have these symptoms for longer than a month, and it must create distress or functional impairment.

The Triggers of PTSD 

Any number of traumas can trigger PTSD, including but not limited to:

  • Experiencing a robbery or assault
  • Living through a car wreck, plane crash, or train accident
  • Experiencing sexual assault
  • Living through a natural disaster or terror attack
  • Experiencing domestic abuse
  • Explosions or bombings
  • Suddenly losing a loved on
  • Experiencing extreme violence

This is not a comprehensive list. What’s more, no one who thinks they may have PTSD should think that their trigger wasn’t serious enough when compared to another. No one can make value judgments when it comes to how people experience trauma. If you think you have PTSD, you deserve treatment and compassionate support.

The Symptoms of PTSD

As with any mental health disorder, PTSD has symptoms that can vary from patient to patient. In PTSD, there can also be variation in symptoms from men to women and from civilians to veterans.

Women & PTSD

Women experience PTSD at much higher rates than men. Symptoms women with PTSD have may include:

  • Emotional detachment or numbness
  • Catatonia
  • Depression
  • Scaring easily
  • High levels of anxiety
  • Avoidant behaviors

Women also tend to avoid getting help for their PTSD. This may be because of the nature of the traumas they go through.

PTSD Symptoms in Men

In men, the symptoms of PTSD can include:

  • Irritability
  • Impulsivity
  • Substance abuse

Men may seek help more often than women, but they often wait, typically getting help within a year of their trauma. Mental health professionals recommend seeking help within three months of the inciting trauma.

PTSD Symptoms in Veterans

In the aftermath of WWI, PTSD was commonly referred to as shell shock. PTSD happens quite often in combat veterans due to the traumatic environment of combat. Symptoms can include:

  • Experiencing flashbacks
  • Having a hard time concentrating
  • Staying vigilant and on guard all the time
  • Insomnia
  • Startling easily
  • Exhibiting intense irritability and anger
  • Detaching emotionally from others

Treatment for PTSD

Treatment for PTSD can involve medication, psychotherapy or both. A mental health professional will work with a patient to uncover what program of treatment is the best answer for them.

Support Groups & Group Therapy

PTSD can be very isolating. This is why PTSD patients can benefit greatly from support groups and group therapy. In a support group or group therapy session, the patient can begin to understand that they are not in it alone.

Individual Therapy 

Patients with PTSD can also benefit from individual therapy sessions. Therapy for PTSD may include:

  • Cognitive Processing Therapy
  • Cognitive Behavioral Therapy
  • Prolonged Exposure Therapy
  • Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing
  • Narrative Exposure Therapy

When anxiety and stress is present, a psychiatrist may also recommend medication to supplement therapy.