When you hear about post-traumatic stress disorder, what images come to mind? Soldiers? Veterans? People dealing with war flashbacks?
That’s certainly how it’s commonly portrayed in popular media.
But PTSD isn’t restricted to those who serve or have served in the military. Anyone can experience it. For that matter, it’s not just men who experience it either.
Trauma is pretty prevalent in our lives. According to one study, 61% of men and 51% of women have experiences trauma at least once in their lives (well, in the United States anyhow). The study goes on to say that of those people, only 8,1% of the men and 20,4% of the women go on to develop PTSD from their trauma.
Trauma can come in various forms. It can be war-related (and not just for veterans, either; it affects civilians, too), but it can also be connected to natural disasters, serious accidents, illness, abuse.
4 types of PTSD symptoms
How do we know if we have PTSD?
David A. Yusko, the clinical director at the Center for the Treatment and Study of Anxiety at the University of Pennsylvania wrote an article about PTSD. In it, he categorizes PTSD symptoms into 4 types.
- Unwanted, distressing memories of the traumatic event(s)
- Recurring trauma-related nightmares
- Flashbacks – involuntary and vivid re-experiencing of the traumatic experience(s)
- Intense emotional distress and/or noticeable physiological reactions to trauma reminders
- Persistent avoidance of thoughts and memories related to the trauma
- Persistent avoidance of external reminders of the trauma (e.g. the location where the trauma occurred or people who remind you of the trauma)
Negative alterations in cognition and mood
- Complete lapse in memory of or a feeling of blacking out for parts of the trauma
- Perpetual negative expectations of the world
- Continuous, misattributed blame of self or others about the traumatic event
- Persistent negative emotional state and/or the inability to experience positive emotions
- Loss of interest or participation in significant activities or activities once interested in
- Feelings of detachment from others, as well as feeling like others cannot relate or understand the trauma and emotional burden
Alterations in arousal and reactivity
- Easily irritable or angry
- Reckless or self-destructive behavior (e.g. unprotected sex, reckless driving)
- More alert
- Easily startled
- Problems with concentration
- Difficulties sleeping, including falling asleep and staying asleep
What options do I have for managing PTSD?
Dr. Yusko outlines two therapy options in his article: prolonged exposure therapy and cognitive processing therapy.
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