Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is a condition that you can develop after exposure to extremely dangerous or stressful situations. 

Individuals can develop PTSD after exposure to a traumatic event, including living through a war or terrorist attack (including serving in the military), enduring domestic or childhood abuse, surviving a physical or sexual assault, being a victim of crime, experiencing an accident or natural disaster, acting as an emergency responder, working in a high-pressure environment like an emergency room, or other traumatic and stressful experiences.

PTSD affects more than 14 million U.S. adults. PTSD can also occur alongside other health conditions like depression, anxiety, or a substance use disorder. A person might not notice the symptoms or be affected by PTSD right away - it can occur long after one has experienced the traumatic event. 

Symptoms

If you or a loved one has suffered through trauma and experience any of these symptoms, you should speak to a doctor. Some symptoms to look out for include:

  • Feeling inescapable urges to injure yourself or other people - call 911 immediately
  • Flashbacks - reliving the trauma over and over again, distressing memories of the event
  • Nightmares or night terrors; waking up because of dreams about the traumatic event
  • Extreme anxiety or feeling as though you can never be safe, even in a place that you know is safe
  • Avoiding feelings, thoughts, places, items, or people that remind you of your trauma
  • Being easily startled, constantly tense, or unnaturally on edge all of the time
  • Having frequent angry outbursts, trouble controlling your temper, or reacting unnecessarily violently when surprised or upset
  • Feeling like you “could have done more” or feeling guilty that you survived when others didn’t
  • Having problems in relationships with family, friends and loved ones because you feel that you cannot connect with them
  • Insomnia and problems falling asleep or staying asleep
  • Having difficulty recalling certain aspects of the traumatic event
  • Feeling consistent negative emotions; an inability to feel positive emotions

Causes

Many traumatic life events can lead to the development of PTSD, and this condition can affect both adults and children. Some factors may make individuals more prone to developing PTSD, including:

  • Being exposed to a life-threatening, disturbing, and damaging event
  • Suffering an injury during a trauma
  • Losing loved ones during a trauma
  • Continuously working in stressful or dangerous environments
  • Previously suffering from depression, anxiety, or substance misuse disorder
  • Traumatic brain injuries, especially during military service
  • Changes in brain chemistry 

Treatment

PTSD can be a serious condition, but it can be treated and managed. You and your doctor can come up with a comprehensive treatment plan to address your PTSD.  

Medication: A combination of medications, including antidepressants, anti-anxiety drugs, mood stabilizers, and other drugs can help control your PTSD symptoms. 

Therapy: Many types of therapy can help you start addressing PTSD. Find the right care option for you at Sheppard Pratt.

Education: Learning more about PTSD and other mental health conditions can help you and your loved ones learn more about managing your condition. See our resource library for more information.

Support: Support groups have been very effective in helping people with PTSD and their loved ones cope with the challenges presented by PTSD. Find a support group at Sheppard Pratt.