A Guide To PTSD

People throw the word "traumatic" around a lot, and each one of us experience many stressful events. But not all of these events fit the classification of "traumatic". So what exactly is PTSD and what causes this disorder?

PTSD is a serious mental health condition that develops after a person has experienced or witnessed a traumatic event. This could include victims of violent crime, survivors of accidents, women after traumatic childbirth, victims of war and torture, and even members of the armed forces.

It can develop immediately after a person experiences a disturbing event, or may even take months and years to occur. When a person experiences a traumatic event, they may experience shame, anger, or guilt, which are common and go away after some time. However, people with PTSD have these symptoms for more than a month and are so intense that it affects their daily life.

Symptoms Of PTSD

  • Reexperiencing symptoms like flashbacks, bad dreams, and frightening thoughts. They re-experience aspects of the incident in a vivid way which triggers intense distress and physiological reactions and causes problems in one's everyday life. In children, this could happen by the child re-enacting the experience or repetitive play.
  • Avoidance symptoms- This is another core symptom of PTSD where the sufferers would push these feelings out of their minds and avoid talking or thinking about them. They may stay away from places, or objects that remind them of the traumatic event. Avoidance can cause a person to change their daily routine. Many may also ruminate excessively about questions that prevent them from coming to terms with the event.

  • Cognitive symptoms- These may involve distorted feelings like guilt, loss of interest in enjoyable events, negative thoughts about oneself and the world, and difficulty concentrating.  Emotional numbing is another common symptom which includes the inability to have feelings and feeling detached from other people.
  • Physical symptoms- Some physical symptoms may include sleep disturbances, sweating, shaking, headaches and dizziness. This also included hypervigilance for a threat and exaggerated startled responses.

PTSD sufferers may also experience other associated symptoms, such as depression, anxiety, shame, and guilt, which also contribute to their distress and affect their functioning.

PTSD may affect the person in a variety of life aspects. They may have difficulty forming relationships with others, which often leads to social withdrawal. Problems in the family and the break-up of significant relationships are not uncommon. This may also affect their job and educational functioning, either because re-experiencing symptoms, sleep and concentration problems make regular work difficult, or because they are unable to cope with reminders of the traumatic event they encounter at work. 

The person may become dependent on substances and they may develop a dependence on alcohol, drugs, nicotine, or caffeine to cope with their problems.


PTSD can occur at any age but there are some genes that make a person more prone to develop PTSD than others. Some factors that increase the risk of developing the disorder are dealing with extra stress after the event, having a history of mental illness, childhood trauma, or seeing another person get hurt. Coping skills and the level of psychological functioning can play a role in a person's susceptibility to PTSD.

Some factors that may promote recovery include seeking out support from other people and joining support groups, having a positive coping strategy, and dealing with the stress in a positive way.

Common treatments for PTSD include 

  • Cognitive Processing Therapy- This is a 12-week treatment with weekly sessions that extend 60-90 minutes. By talking to the therapist about the traumatic event and how it has affected your life and writing it down in detail, you will examine how you think about your trauma and figure out new ways to deal with it. The patient becomes more aware of the relationship between thoughts and emotions and continues to modify and evaluate the behavior related to the event

  • Prolonged Exposure Therapy- This is evidenced-based psychotherapy for PTSD which allows you to participate in activities that you have been avoiding because of trauma. Addressing the memory can take place through imaginal exposure or in vivo exposure. The therapist starts by teaching the patient breathing techniques to ease the anxiety and later asks the patient to make a list of the things they have been avoiding and learn to face them. This helps in improving the quality of life and reduces the person's fear and anxiety.

  • Stress Inoculation Training-It is a type of cognitive-behavioral therapy which teaches you new ways to deal with stress. You will consider how different situations, thoughts, and behaviors could make it hard for you to deal with stress and learn helpful ways of coping.

Medicines are also prescribed to patients, which helps them stop thinking and reacting to what happened and gain a more positive outlook on life


After a traumatic occurrence, it's common to have disturbing and perplexing thoughts, but most people gradually get better over the course of a few weeks. However, if a person doesn't feel better after two weeks, is constantly irritable, seeks the support of alcohol or drugs, has difficulty performing tasks, or is emotionally unable to respond to others, they should probably seek the help of a professional.


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