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Post traumatic stress disorder occurs when someone has experienced a scary, dangerous, shocking, or otherwise, traumatizing event. It’s normal to feel fear or tension after a traumatic event. It’s a survival mechanism tied to your fight-or-flight response, and many people will recover from their initial trauma naturally. However, those who continue to experience fear or other emotions related to stress long after the traumatic moment has passed may be diagnosed with PTSD.

According to the National Institute of Mental Health, about 3.5 percent of adults in the U.S. had PTSD in the past year. About 36.6 percent of those adults experience severe PTSD.

PTSD Symptoms

Symptoms for PTSD can differ from person to person, and while it’s most often associated with those who have served in the military, not all people with PTSD have been through a dangerous event. Sudden shocking experiences, like the death of a loved one, can cause PTSD.

While symptoms generally exhibit themselves within a few months of the traumatic event, they can sometimes begin years after the initial trauma. Symptoms for PTSD include:

  • Re-experiencing symptoms, including flashbacks, frightening thoughts, and bad dreams
  • Arousal and reactivity symptoms, including constant tension, being easily startled, angry outbursts, sleep troubles
  • Avoidance symptoms, including a refusal to confront thoughts and feelings surrounding the traumatic event or keeping away from people, places, and objects that may remind you of the traumatic experience
  • Cognition and mood symptoms, including negative self-thoughts, trouble remembering the traumatic event, loss of interest in things you once enjoyed, and guilt, blame, and other distorted feelings

Many people experiencing these symptoms after the trauma but recover within a few weeks. This is known as acute stress disorder.

Older kids and adolescents will exhibit similar symptoms as adults, but young children may show different symptoms, including:

  • Being unable to talk
  • Clinging to parents
  • Wetting the bed
  • Acting out the trauma during playtime

Risk Factors and Causes of PTSD

While genes may make some people more predisposed to PTSD, anyone can develop PTSD at any age. The disorder is most often associated with war veterans, but other causes include:

  • Physical or sexual assault
  • Abuse
  • Auto accidents

  • Natural disaster
  • Death of a loved one
  • Danger or harm of a loved one

Some risk factors for PTSD include:

  • A history of substance abuse or other mental illness
  • Having very little emotional support after experiencing a traumatic event
  • Experiencing other stress, like a lost job or divorce, after the trauma

Treatment for PTSD

Most treatments for PTSD rely on a combination of medication and psychotherapy. Antidepressants tend to be the most studied and most used medication for PTSD, helping to control symptoms like sadness, anger, worry, and numb emotions. Research also suggests that Prazosin may be helpful with sleep problems related to PTSD.

Psychotherapy, often called talk therapy, involves talking with a therapist to treat your mental disorder. This can happen one-on-one or in a group therapy session. Psychotherapy treatment normally lasts up to 12 weeks, but it can go for longer depending on your needs.

If you have questions or are ready to get help for your PTSD, please contact HARP at (877) 806-5022.

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