Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) - Crozer-Keystone Health System - PA

Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder

If you’ve been through a traumatic event and are having trouble dealing with it, you may be struggling with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). PTSD is a serious mental health condition that can develop after an adult or child experience or witness a traumatic or terrifying event.

During this event, you think your life or others’ lives are in danger and may feel like you have no control over what’s happening. Events that may trigger the onset of this condition include sexual or physical assault, an accident, war, the unexpected death of a loved one, or natural disaster. Families of victims as well as emergency personnel and rescue workers can also develop PTSD.

It is normal to have some anxiety following such an event, but it usually goes away in time. For people with PTSD, the anxiety is more intense and keeps coming back. The trauma may be relived through nightmares, intrusive memories and, even, flashbacks. The symptoms of PTSD can cause problems with relationships and make it hard to cope with daily life.

The good news is that PTSD can be treated. With help, you can feel better.

Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder Symptoms

Common symptoms include:

  • Unwanted or intense memories of a trauma
  • Nightmares
  • Vivid memories (flashbacks) that make you feel like you’re reliving the event
  • Feeling worried, fearful, anxious, or suspicious
  • Strong reactions when you’re reminded of the trauma (or sometimes for no obvious reason at all)
  • Intrusive thoughts about combat, death, or killing
  • Feeling disconnected or isolated, as if you’re “not yourself”
  • Loss of interest in things you once enjoyed
  • Feeling agitated, tense, on edge, or easily startled
  • Bursts of anger or irritation
  • Problems concentrating
  • Trouble falling or staying asleep

Not every person who goes through a trauma develops PTSD, or experiences symptoms at all. PTSD is diagnosed  if your symptoms last more than one month. Symptoms usually begin within three months of the trauma, but can also start months or years later.

How long this illness lasts varies. Some people recover within six months, others have symptoms that last much longer.

Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder Treatment

Most people with PTSD have a combination of counseling and medication for treatment. But everyone struggling with PTSD will need their own unique treatment. Specific treatment for PTSD will be determined by your health care provider based on:

  • Your age, overall health, and medical history
  • Extent of the disease
  • Your tolerance for specific medications, procedures, or therapies
  • Expectations for the course of the disease
  • Your opinion or preference

The main treatment for PTSD is counseling. You’ll work with a trained professional (therapist) to learn new ways to cope with your experiences. Medication may also be prescribed to help with anxiety, depression or sleep.

You may think that asking for help is a sign of weakness. In fact, taking action to make your life better takes a lot of courage. Talking about a trauma can be hard, but it can make a big difference.

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