When people mention Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, the image created in their heads is usually one associated with war. The old names for the syndrome were “shell shock,” or “combat fatigue,” calling to mind a soldier who has returned home after witnessing the traumatic events that always accompany the horrors of battle. Is it possible to have PTSD without having fought in wartime? The answer is, of course, yes.
When a person bears witness to a traumatic event such as a violent death, car crash, major accident or other disaster, the flashbacks to the memory can create the stress disorder and its accompanying symptoms. Increasingly, patients are diagnosed with the disorder following serious abuse, or other medical issues, including problematic childbirth.
Just because you experience trauma does not automatically mean you will develop the disorder, but in the United States it is estimated that one in eleven adults will experience PTSD in their lifetime, with about one in three developing the disorder after an acutely traumatic event.
What Causes PTSD?
What determines whether an individual will develop PTSD after an acute trauma? There are a number of factors involved, and the causes are not always completely clear. If an individual has a history of mental illness or disorders such as depression, panic, or anxiety, it is much more likely that person will develop PTSD after a trauma.
Other factors such as the acuteness of the trauma, the level of cortisol and adrenaline, the need for the patient’s psyche to have a defense mechanism, and more can affect the development of symptoms.
In order for a diagnosis of PTSD to be made, the individual must display symptoms for at least a month following either experiencing or witnessing the traumatic event or violence, have an emotional connection to someone else experiencing the trauma (such as the death, rape or abuse of a family member), or be repeatedly exposed to traumatic stimuli, such as first responders seeing the results of accidents or violence.
Symptoms of PTSD
How do you know you have PTSD and not just a typical reaction to a traumatic event? What actually qualifies the patient as experiencing the disorder are the following:
- Recurrence of dreams or intrusive immersive memories of the event (reliving the trauma)
- Dissociation or escape reactions when the intrusions happen
- Intense physiological or psychological reactions to corresponding stimuli that trigger memories of the trauma
- Persistence of any of the following: dissociative or avoidance addictions like alcoholism and drug abuse; memory issues related to the event; intrusive and persistent feelings of guilt, blame, terror, or detachment from others and estrangement from family and friends
- Disordered sleep, concentration, or outsized emotional reactions to aggravating stimuli
If you are experiencing any of these symptoms after a traumatic event and the symptoms persist longer than a month or interfere with your enjoyment of life, relationships, job, or day-to-day function, it is important that you seek treatment to deal with the disorder rather than allowing the symptoms to persist and potentially worsen. Call us today for more information (813) 873-7777.