Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)

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Understanding Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)

People struggling with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) experience significant impairments in their relationships and ability to function in daily life. These issues are the result of exposure to traumatic events. PTSD is a potentially severe psychiatric disorder that can significantly impair personal relationships and the ability to function in daily life. 

PTSD typically requires professional treatment and support to manage and reduce a person’s symptoms and improve their overall mental and emotional wellness. For those who are suffering from PTSD, Guardian Recovery offers comprehensive, personalized treatment plans that feature evidence-based strategies to address this condition adequately. Our mental health treatment options are integrated, effective, and personalized, providing clients with the best chance at long-term recovery. Contact us directly to learn more about PTSD treatment options near you.

What Is PTSD?

PTSD is a mental health condition that can emerge after a person experiences or witnesses a traumatic event. Individuals with PTSD experience adverse symptoms such as flashbacks, extreme anxiety, nightmares, and avoidance of specific triggers associated with the stressful event.

Events That Can Lead to the Development of PTSD Include:

  • Natural disasters
  • Catastrophic accidents
  • Physical or sexual assault
  • Childhood abuse
  • Military combat
  • War and conflict zones
  • Terrorist attacks
  • Medical trauma
  • Witnessing a violent death

Common Symptoms Associated With PTSD

According to the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH), there are multiple categories of symptoms associated with PTSD.

Categories of PTSD Symptoms Include:

  • Re-Experiencing Symptoms — Flashbacks, nightmares, distressing thoughts, and physical stress issues (e.g., muscle tension, chest pain, jaw clenching).
  • Avoidance Symptoms — Avoidance of places, events, people, objects, thoughts, or feelings that trigger stress and memories of the event.
  • Arousal and Reactivity Symptoms — Being easily startled or tense/on edge, difficulty concentrating, sleep disturbances, and bouts of irritability/anger. Other symptoms include risky, reckless, or destructive behavior. 
  • Cognition and Mood Symptoms — An inability to recall features of the event, negative thoughts of oneself and the world, loss of interest in activities, and social isolation. Other potential symptoms include difficulty experiencing positive emotions. Instead, feelings tend to be negative, such as fear, anger, guilt, blame, or shame.

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Diagnosis & Assessment

A qualified mental health professional, such as a psychiatrist, psychologist, or licensed therapist, will conduct a clinical interview and comprehensive assessment to diagnose PTSD. They will gather medical and mental health information about the individual as well as the traumatic events they have experienced. 

The clinician will also use criteria outlined in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fifth Edition (DSM-V) to determine if the symptoms meet the threshold for PTSD. These symptoms generally include those noted above, but it is also necessary to rule out other conditions with similar diagnostic requirements.

Finally, for a diagnosis of PTSD, the duration and impact of the symptoms must have persisted for at least one month and significantly affected the person’s daily life.

PTSD in Veterans & Trauma

Trauma is commonly found among those with military backgrounds. Examples of traumatic experiences common among veterans include highly stressful situations such as direct combat, loss of fellow soldiers, witnessing casualties, and extended deployments. Trauma can also be the result of exposure to life-threatening conditions and improvised explosive devices (IEDs).

The prevalence of PTSD in veterans is thought to be relatively high, particularly among those deployed to combat zones. Unfortunately, veterans have traditionally faced stigma due to the nature of the military, which once considered mental health issues to be moral weaknesses. In recent years, however, the military has made strides in taking mental health seriously and promoting destigmatization and treatment.

Service members diagnosed with psychiatric conditions such as PTSD, depression, or anxiety are now more likely to receive therapy, medication, and other interventions to help manage their symptoms. These may include trauma-focused cognitive-behavioral therapy (TF-CBT) or eye movement desensitization and reprocessing (EMDR).

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The Development of Childhood PTSD

Childhood PTSD is a condition that affects children and adolescents who have experienced or witnessed a traumatic event. The diagnostic criteria for this disorder are similar to those for adults. Traumatic events include physical or sexual abuse, accidents, natural disasters, experiencing or witnessing violence, or the sudden loss of a loved one, such as a parent.

Children tend to express their distress differently than adults. For example, they may recreate the event during play, exhibit regression in their behavior, or show signs of separation anxiety. Like adults, they may receive various therapies, including TF-CBT and EMDR, although medication is not typically the first-line approach.

Parental support is considered essential in helping young people with PTSD be involved in therapy and providing a safe, supportive environment. Support from schools, teachers, and friends can also help children with any academic challenges and issues with peer relationships.

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Therapeutic Approaches to Treat PTSD

PTSD can be treated using a range of evidence-based psychotherapies. These strategies have been shown to help those with PTSD manage their symptoms, reduce their stress levels, and improve their overall well-being.

Therapeutic Approaches To Treat PTSD Include:

Several other therapies can be used to treat PTSD, depending on a person’s unique needs and circumstances. It’s also not uncommon to employ multiple therapies in combination with medication if mental health specialists believe it may be beneficial.

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The Role of Medications in Treatment & Managing Symptoms

Medication management can be essential for many individuals who are struggling with PTSD. Although it is rarely recommended to rely on medication alone for treatment, it can improve outcomes when used in combination with various therapies. These medications are typically administered to reduce negative symptoms and stabilize mood.

Medications typically prescribed to help manage symptoms include antidepressants such as SSRIs (e.g., Zoloft) and SNRIs (e.g., Effexor). Prazosin, a beta blocker indicated to treat high blood pressure, is also sometimes used off-label to relieve nightmares and sleep disturbances common among those with PTSD.

Supporting Someone With PTSD

Supporting a loved one with PTSD can make a significant difference in improving their functioning and well-being. Although this may be challenging, understanding and support can be an essential source of comfort and healing. 

Ways To Support a Person With PTSD Include:

  • Educating oneself and other loved ones on PTSD and any co-occurring disorders the individual experiences.
  • Providing a safe and supportive environment for all that is conducive to open communication while respecting boundaries.
  • Assist the individual in seeking professional treatment and encourage them to participate in ongoing therapy and group support.
  • Engaging in individual or family therapy, depending on your relationship with your loved one and your own needs.
  • Avoiding triggers when possible that could aggravate the person’s symptoms.
  • Encouraging the individual to maintain a healthy lifestyle, including eating well, exercising, and practicing good sleep hygiene.

Contact Guardian Recovery for Help With PTSD Today

PTSD can cause many detrimental impairments in daily functioning and prevent them from enjoying the life they deserve. Although this mental health disorder can be challenging to overcome, healing is possible through the use of evidence-based treatment strategies that can reduce symptoms and promote improved coping skills. 

If you or a loved one are struggling with PTSD or another mental health condition, we urge you to contact us today for a free, no-obligation health insurance benefits check. Learn more about our streamlined admissions process, multiple levels of care, and our commitment to providing effective treatment and support.

Reviewed professionally for accuracy by:

Ryan Soave

L.M.H.C.

Ryan Soave brings deep experience as a Licensed Mental Health Counselor, certified trauma therapist, program developer, and research consultant for Huberman Lab at Stanford University Department of Neurobiology. Post-graduation from Wake Forest University, Ryan quickly discovered his acumen for the business world. After almost a decade of successful entrepreneurship and world traveling, he encountered a wave of personal and spiritual challenges; he felt a calling for something more. Ryan returned to school and completed his Master’s Degree in Mental Health Counseling. When he started working with those suffering from addiction and PTSD, he found his passion. He has never looked back.

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