Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)
What is PTSD?
Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) is a mental health disorder that comes either from witnessing or experiencing a traumatic event. People with PTSD have intense and disturbing thoughts and feelings relating to their trauma that last long after it happened.
- Avoidance: People with PTSD may take active steps to try to avoid any potential reminders of the traumatic event. That may include avoiding people, objects, situations, places, etc, that might trigger memories related to the event. They also might resist talking about it or getting treatment for it.
- Intrusion: Intrusive thoughts such as repeated involuntary memories, nightmares, or flashbacks. Flashbacks might be so vivid the person might feel they are reliving the trauma in real time.
- Negative changes in thinking and mood: Someone with PTSD might experience overwhelming negative thoughts about themselves, other people, or the world; hopelessness about the future; memory problems, including memory gaps within the traumatic event itself; difficulty maintaining close relationships; lack of interest in things they once enjoyed; difficulty feeling positive emotions; or feeling numb.
- Changes in physical and emotional reactions: People with PTSD might be easily frightened; be always on guard for a threat; have self-destructive behavior such as excessive-drinking; trouble sleeping; trouble concentrating; irritability, angry outbursts, or aggressive behavior; or overwhelming guilt or shame.
- For children 6 years old and younger symptoms may include:
- Re-enacting the traumatic events through play.
- Nightmares that may include aspects of the traumatic event.
PTSD can be developed when you go through, see, or learn about a significant trauma event. In some cases, doctors aren’t sure why some people get PTSD. As with most mental health disorders, PTSD is complex, and likely a mix of;
- Biological inherited mental health risks.
- Stressful experiences, including the amount of trauma you’ve gone through.
- The way your brain regulates chemicals and the hormones your body releases in response to stress.
You can develop PTSD at any age. However, some factors might make you more likely to develop PTSD after a traumatic event, such as;
- Experiencing intense or long-lasting trauma
- Experiencing trauma earlier in life (Such as childhood abuse)
- Having other mental health problems
- Having a job that increases your risk of being exposed to traumatic events (military, first responders, etc)
- Having problems with substance abuse
- Lacking a support system
- Having blood relatives with mental health problems.
PTSD Trauma High Risks
The following are the most common traumatic events that lead to someone developing PTSD. That being said, there are many other traumatic events that can cause someone to develop PTSD that are completely valid (i.e. medical trauma, natural disasters, surviving a fire, and many many more.)
- Combat exposure
- Childhood physical abuse
- Sexual violence
- Physical Assault
- Being threatened with a weapon
- An accident
The main treatments for PTSD are psychotherapy (talk therapy), Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT), Cognitive Processing Therapy (CPT), Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR), and there are medication options.
Complex Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (C-PTSD)
What is cPTSD?
Complex PTSD comes from long-term trauma. cPTSD specifically seems to often develop in those who have been abused by someone who was in a caregiver or protector role for them. Examples might include survivors of ongoing childhood sexual abuse by a relative or caregiver, or survivors of human trafficking. Other long-term traumas that can cause cPTSD include (but aren’t limited to): childhood neglect, ongoing/long term physical, sexual, or emotional abuse, living in an area of war, or being a prisoner of war.
cPTSD symptoms include the same symptoms of PTSD, plus an additional set of symptoms. See above for standard PTSD symptoms. Below we will list specific cPTSD symptoms.
- Lack of emotional regulation
- Negative self perception/guilt/shame
- Difficulty with relationships
- Distorted perception of abuser
- Loss of systems of meanings (Long held morals or beliefs might be suddenly lost/discarded, especially if something that brings up a traumatic trigger that connects to that belief makes the person realize their belief might have come from their abuser/come from their trauma.)
Anyone can develop cPTSD, but some people are more likely to develop it than others. Aside from having other past trauma, here are some other potential risk factors that might raise someone’s risk to develop cPTSD:
- Other/Underlying mental illness or family history of mental illness
- How your brain regulates hormones and neurochemicals, particularly in response to stress
- Not having a support system
- Having a dangerous job
Much of this page was inspired by mayoclinic and healthline articles (both in our list of sources), but condensed and simplified for you here.
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