Understanding PTSD 

PTSD, or Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, is a mental health disorder that involves outbursts of anger, intrusive thinking, flashbacks and avoidant behaviors and stems from an inciting trauma. Many associate this disorder with combat veterans, but those in the general population and those who have experienced traumatic brain injuries can develop it, as well. It is estimated that it affects around 7.7 million adults in the U.S.

Given the intensity of PTSD, many sufferers think that there is little chance of them healing. Working with a mental health professional, however, can bring about significant changes and enhanced quality of life for a patient with PTSD.

Types of PTSD

The DSM-V divides PTSD into four types. Each type of the disorder has its own symptoms:

  • Avoidance: Patients with this type avoid all settings and triggers related to the inciting trauma.
  • Intrusive memories: Patients with this type of PTSD have recurring, intrusive thoughts and flashbacks related to the inciting trauma.
  • Changes in physical and emotional reactions: Dramatic emotional and physical alterations happen in this type of PTSD. 
  • Negative changes in thinking and mood: Patients with this type of PTSD engage in negative thinking so extreme that it affects their quality of life and relationships.

Individuals with PTSD may also have a combination of the above. Typically, certain triggers cause certain types of PTSD. 

PTSD Triggers

There is a wide range to the triggers that can cause PTSD. They can include some of the following:

  • Robbery
  • Automobile accidents
  • Rape
  • Assault
  • Natural disasters
  • Domestic abuse
  • Explosions or bombings
  • Getting mugged
  • Terror attacks
  • Shootings
  • Plane crashes
  • Train accidents
  • The sudden death of a loved one
  • Extreme violence

Someone with PTSD should not wonder whether their trauma is as “serious” as someone else’s. There are many types of trauma that can lead to this disorder, and it is not productive to make value judgments about trauma. Anyone with PTSD is deserving of compassionate treatment. 

The Symptoms of PTSD

PTSD varies from one patient to the next and can also vary from men to women or from the general population to combat veterans. What’s more, people who have experienced the same trauma may end up with different types of PTSD.

Women & PTSD

Women experience PTSD at rates two to three times higher than men. Symptoms women may experience include:

  • Emotional numbness or catatonia
  • Depression
  • Getting scared easily
  • High Anxiety
  • Avoidant behaviors

Women also avoid treatment far more often than men do, possibly due to the types of triggers they experience. 

PTSD Symptoms in Men

Symptoms men with PTSD may experience include:

  • Substance abuse
  • Irritability
  • Impulsivity

Generally speaking, men are likely to seek out treatment within a year of the inciting trauma. It is recommended that people seek out help within three months of the trauma. 

Symptoms of PTSD in Veterans

Referred to as “shell shock” in the aftermath of the Great War, PTSD is known to occur frequently amongst combat veterans. Symptoms may include:

  • Recurring flashbacks of the trauma
  • Inability to concentrate
  • Feeling the need to be “on guard” constantly
  • Insomnia
  • Scaring easily, especially when loud noises are present
  • Irritability, anger
  • Emotional detachment

Treating PTSD

As with many mental health disorders, treating PTSD can involve therapy or medication or a combination of the two. By working with a therapist, a patient can uncover which approach is best for them. 

Support Groups for PTSD

Those with PTSD often feel as if they are alone in their suffering. Attending PTSD support groups can help patients realize they do not need to suffer alone. Group sessions involve shared stories and the guidance of a counselor. 

Individual Therapy for PTSD

Individual therapy for those with PTSD can include the following:

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

Therapist-Led Trauma Group Therapy

In therapist-led trauma group therapy, a therapist leads the group in identifying triggers and building better coping mechanisms. This approach is, in essence, a combination of group and individual therapy.