What is Post Traumatic Stress Disorder?

Image from Ultimate-Survival-Training.com.

Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) is a mental health condition that can develop after living through extreme stress, a terrifying or distressing event, or a prolonged traumatic experience.

What kinds of experiences could lead to PTSD?

  • combat (for military veterans) or violent/life threatening encounters (for police force)
  • a serious car accident
  • sexual assault or prolonged sexual abuse
  • mugging or robbery
  • a traumatic childbirth
  • physical violence or severe neglect
  • witnessing violent deaths
  • natural disasters, such as severe floods, earthquakes or tsunamis
  • a diagnosis of a life-threatening condition
  • an unexpected severe injury or death of a close family member or friend

How do I know if I have PTSD?

Typically, PTSD symptoms come in four categories:

  1. Intrusive memories. This could be flashbacks, which is when your mind re-lives the traumatic event as if it were happening again in real time. Sometimes this means you could have emotional distress or even a physical reaction when you see something that reminds you of the event. You could be having distressing memories that break through your normal day-to-day life, or nightmares about the event.
  2. Avoidance is when you try to avoid thinking about, or talking about the traumatic event. You may even avoid people, places or activities that remind you of it.
  3. Negative changes in thinking and mood could come at any time. You may feel hopeless or emotionally numb. You may have trouble remembering parts of the event, or have difficulty expressing positive emotions. You may feel detached from your loved ones or not be interested in your favorite activities anymore.
  4. Changes in physical and emotional reactions can come in many forms, but here are a few:
  • Are you easily frightened or startled?
  • Are you always on guard for danger?
  • Do you engage in self-destructive behavior, such as driving too fast or drinking too much?
  • Do you cut or burn yourself, or pull out your own hair?
  • Do you have trouble sleeping or concentrating?
  • Are you easily irritated or prone to angry outbursts?
  • Do you feel overwhelming guilt or shame over small errors?

If any of these symptoms sound familiar, either for yourself or a loved one, please contact me. Let’s begin the process to heal from the past.

Satu Woodland is owner and clinician of Mental Health Solutions, an integrative mental health practice located at Bown Crossing in Boise, Idaho. If you would like to discuss the information in this blog further with her, please call 208-918-0958. She sees adolescents and adults. Information in this blog is not intended as medical advice. Please consult your health care provider about decisions regarding your health.

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