Post-traumatic Stress Disorder is a mental disorder that can develop in people who have experienced or witnessed extremely stressful events, including military combat, sexual assault, war crimes, natural disasters, car accidents, and terrorist attacks, among others.
Those with PTSD continue to reexperience the traumatic event in the form of nightmares, flashbacks, or rumination long after the event has ended, usually months or years. The persistent thoughts of the event can cause sadness, anger, and depression, as well as hypervigilance and anxiety. Those struggling with symptoms may avoid certain places or people who remind them of the event and may have extreme reactions to sounds or other sensory experiences that trigger symptoms, such as a loud noise, certain smells associated with the traumatic event, or fear of crowded spaces.
Additional symptoms may include survivor’s guilt, shame, isolation, feelings of emptiness, disconnection with others whom they believe don’t understand their distress, anger, mistrust of others, and difficulty expressing emotions. Those struggling with PTSD may also go through a cyclical process of reexperiencing, avoiding, and numbing, which may include substance abuse.
The diagnosis of PTSD requires that a person be exposed to a traumatic event, although people struggling with posttraumatic stress can indirectly be exposed to extreme stressors – such as close family members who died violently and meet the criteria for PTSD.
According to the National Institute of Mental Health, nearly 8 million Americans 18 years and older suffer from post-traumatic disorder symptoms; children can also suffer from PTSD.
People with post-traumatic stress disorder are at a greater risk of co-occurring illnesses such as depression, substance abuse, or other anxiety disorders.
Posttraumatic stress disorder was first attributed to combat veterans, originally described as “shell shock” or “battle fatigue.” However, research has since proven that PTSD has been seen in individuals who have experienced traumatic events, other than war. However, research has suggested that there may be differences in treatment for veterans versus civilians. Veterans have been trained to go into dangerous situations to fight and may have a different degree of hypervigilance than civilians who experienced trauma outside of war. Their treatment may be different for veterans, focusing more on reentry into society and reducing their “fight” impulse.
While there is uncertainty regarding the causes of post-traumatic stress disorder, there are several factors that can trigger PTSD symptoms. Those include:
Trigger of “Fight or Flight” Response
One theory on the trigger of PTSD involves our “flight or fight” response system that triggers the “survival” mode. Flashbacks or ruminations about the traumatic event may trigger our survival mechanism and we begin to believe we need to relive or re-experience the event so we can better prepare for it in the future. However, reliving the experience doesn’t allow healing or processing of the event itself.
Recent studies have shown that those who suffer from PTSD may have an abnormal level of stress hormones.
Those who were sexually abused or experienced other severe childhood trauma may be at a greater risk of post-traumatic stress disorder should they experience another traumatic event in the future.
These factors may increase your risk of developing PTSD:
According to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM), a reference manual used by healthcare professionals as the authoritative guide to the diagnosis of mental disorders – the criteria for a post-traumatic disorder diagnosis are listed below, although a formal diagnosis must come from a licensed and experienced clinician.
For an individual — an adult, adolescent, or child older than 6 — to be diagnosed with PTSD they must meet each of the criteria.
Have had exposure to actual or threatened death, serious injury, or sexual assault either through directly experiencing the event, witnessing the event, learning that the traumatic event occurred to a loved one, or experiencing repeated exposure to traumatic event vicariously through others (i.e., first responders or DCS workers exposure to child neglect or abuse).
Criterion B (one required)
Presence of one or more of the following intrusive symptoms:
Criterion C (one required)
Avoidance of trauma-related stimuli in the form of the following:
Criterion D (two required)
Negative thoughts or emotions that began and worsened after the trauma as evidenced by the following:
Criterion E (two required)
Hyperarousal and negative reactivity connected to the trauma with the following symptoms:
The symptoms have lasted at least one month.
The symptoms cause marked impairment and functioning in work and social settings.
A diagnosis of post-traumatic stress disorder requires an evaluation and diagnosis by a licensed clinician such as a psychiatrist or psychologist who specializes in bipolar disorders. Because the assessment process for PTSD can be painful, at Clarity Clinic, we are sensitive to the symptoms that may arise because of the trauma and ensure a safe environment to talk about the trauma experience. Additionally, our clinicians will assess for co-occurring disorders, such as substance abuse, anger issues, or suicidal ideation, which may need to be treated before developing the treatment plan for PTSD.
Both medication and psychotherapy in conjunction are effective in helping reduce symptoms of PTSD. At Clarity Clinic our experienced clinicians guide clients toward the proper treatments, including pharmacological and non-pharmacological interventions.
Our psychiatrists ensure a proper diagnosis and take care of specialized medication management for clients treating depressive disorders through pharmacological treatment.
In some cases, medication can play a vital role in managing the symptoms of PTSD. Our trauma psychiatrists work closely with you to determine whether medication is an appropriate part of your treatment plan. If prescribed, we carefully monitor your progress and adjust medication as needed to ensure optimal results.
Our team of trauma therapists is trained in a range of evidence-based therapies that have shown remarkable efficacy in treating PTSD. These therapies may include:
At Clarity Clinic, we believe in the importance of addressing the mind-body connection. Our holistic therapies, such as yoga, mindfulness, and art therapy, provide avenues for self-expression, relaxation, and healing. These therapies can complement traditional approaches and contribute to a comprehensive healing experience.
At Clarity Clinic, we believe that healing from PTSD is not only possible but achievable. Our compassionate team of trauma experts is dedicated to walking alongside you every step of the way, providing you with the tools, support, and guidance you need to reclaim your life from the grip of trauma. We are here to remind you that you are not defined by your past, and a brighter future is within reach.
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