What Causes PTSD?
Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is a serious mental health condition that can occur in people who have experienced or witnessed a war, serious accident, natural disaster, sexual assault, terrorist attack or other life-threatening events. Whilst it is normal to feel stressed and anxious following a traumatic experience, most people recover from the trauma and can move on with their lives, living with Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder while able to function in their normal lives.
For others, however, the process of overcoming the trauma they have experienced is a long, testing, and potentially debilitating battle. People with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) may continue to feel stressed, depressed, and anxious for months, or even years, after the events and require treatment to help them on a path towards better mental health.
How Do I Know if I Have PTSD?
Around 8% of Americans suffer from PTSD at some point in their lives. On average, 60% of men and 50% of women experience a traumatic event during their lifetimes – of these, 8% of men and 20% of women are found to develop the disorder.
According to a variety of studies, those who suffer from PTSD likely suffer from other psychological disorders, such as depression, psychosis, and anxiety, and are more likely to turn to substance abuse as a means of coping with the trauma they have faced.
The most common symptoms of PTSD include:
- Dreams and nightmares about the traumatic event
- Experiencing severe emotional distress when reminded of the event
- Avoiding talking about the traumatic event
- Aggressive behavior
- Sleep disturbance
- Negative changes in thinking and mood
- Difficulty concentrating
- Feelings of guilt and shame
If you think you may be suffering from any of these symptoms, take this short 2-minute self-assessment for PTSD to assess the likelihood that you are suffering from the disorder. If after taking the quiz you have any concerns that you may be suffering from PTSD, please consult a mental health professional.
If you are diagnosed with PTSD, there are a variety of treatment options available to you that can help you move past the trauma you have experienced and live a full and happy life.
Your doctor will consider your individual needs to prescribe the best course of treatment for you. Treatment for PTSD will likely include a combination of psychotherapy and medication.
During psychotherapy, you will meet with a mental health professional to recognize patterns of thinking that make you feel stuck in your emotional state. You will use a variety of techniques to help you accept and move past your traumatic experience.
The symptoms of PTSD can also be alleviated with the help of medication. Certain types of medications that have been shown to be helpful in treating the symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) include SSRIs (selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors) and SNRIs (serotonin-norepinephrine reuptake inhibitors). Your doctor will determine which medication and dosage will be most effective for you.
While dealing with PTSD can be extremely difficult, it is important to remember that effective treatment is available, and you don’t have to face this battle alone. Lean on friends and family for support, and trust that, in time, working with your therapist will allow you to rebuild your life. In addition to professional support and medication, lifestyle changes are also valuable to alleviate the depression and anxiety associated with PTSD. Examples are exercise, outdoor activities like hiking, meditation, yoga, healthy nutrition, and good quality sleep.