Back during World War II in the early 1940s, post-traumatic stress disorder wasn’t a diagnosable condition. Instead, it was known by names like shell shock, battle shock, combat fatigue, war neurosis, and psychiatric collapse. In many cases, people who showed signs of what would now be PTSD were even diagnosed with schizophrenia.
Now, post-traumatic stress affects an average of 7% to 8% of the U.S. population during their lifetime.
To ensure that these individuals can get the help they need, it is important that you understand what PTSD is, what causes it, the symptoms it leads to, and how it is treated.
Post-traumatic stress disorder, commonly referred to as PTSD, is a major mental health condition that is connected to an individual who has been through a traumatic event. They typically react or are affected whenever they are reminded of the experience, which can lead to significant stress and other symptoms.
While military combat is commonly associated with PTSD, people from all walks of life deal with the heavy emotions and other effects it may have on them. Everyone can be affected regardless of their age or gender, including children who face trauma when they’re younger. PTSD will generally arise in as little as three months from the point of the original traumatic event and could last for anywhere from six months to years.
As a diagnosable condition, a doctor such as a psychiatrist or a psychologist will determine whether a person has post-traumatic stress disorder. They’ll do a physical examination as well as a psychological evaluation to identify whether an individual fits the criteria.
To qualify as having PTSD, an individual must have directly experienced the trauma either in person, as a witness, or through someone they care about.
There are five types of post-traumatic stress disorder, which sometimes occur in stages and are specifically related to the type or frequency of the traumatic event. The types of PTSD include:
- Normal Stress Response: This is considered early-onset PTSD, though it doesn’t always end up leading to the full effects of the disorder.
- Acute Stress Disorder: When someone has a near-death experience or is exposed to a life-threatening event, they may feel the effects of acute stress.
- Uncomplicated PTSD: While this may sound like it minimizes the feelings associated with it, uncomplicated PTSD is simply stating that it is related to a single traumatic event.
- Complex PTSD: This type of post-traumatic stress disorder covers individuals who’ve gone through multiple traumas, instead of only one.
- Comorbid PTSD: When a person has multiple mental health conditions such as substance abuse paired with PTSD, it is known as Comorbid.
Many forms of trauma and life experiences may lead someone to have PTSD at one point or another. It could happen because of highly-stressful circumstances or through genetic mental health conditions. On average, about 1 in 3 people who experience a major trauma will develop PTSD.
Some people may have a temperament that is more prone to the effects of PTSD, even if they see or hear about a trauma that affected someone else. In general, the way a person’s body naturally reacts to stress could be a factor in whether someone experiences these significant emotions.
A few of the most common causes of PTSD include:
- Automobile accidents
- War, military combat, or torture
- Sexual assault
- Physical assault
- Childbirth or losing a baby
- Domestic abuse or negligence
- Exposure to traumatic events experienced by others
- Health problems like cancer, heart attack, or stroke
Regardless of the type of trauma, you must be educated on how to know if you or someone you love has PTSD. The effects can be either physical, emotional, or both depending on the individual and how their body reacts.
The main signs of PTSD include:
- Recurring intrusive thoughts
- Irritability or anger
- Memory loss
- Nightmares or night sweats
- Poor decision making
- Frequent startle response (jumpy)
- Lack of interest in activities
- Trouble concentrating
- Unable to feel positive emotions
- Blaming others
- Avoiding reminders of the traumatic event
Post-traumatic stress disorder is often considered the body’s natural survival mechanism that is kickstarted by trauma. When scans are done of a person’s brain who has PTSD, their emotional processing looks different than normal.
There is no one-size-fits-all cure for PTSD, but professionals have found a variety of ways to support and treat people who manage its effects.
Numerous types of therapy are available to help with PTSD including cognitive behavior therapy, prolonged exposure therapy, psychotherapy, eye movement desensitization, and stress inoculation therapy. In some cases, professionals will also prescribe medications to further help with the coping process.
Relaxing exercises are also great ways to treat PTSD through practices like yoga, meditation, breathing, or massage.
While many people may try to treat PTSD on their own, it is always recommended to get help from a trained professional.
If you or someone you love is showing signs or symptoms of PTSD, there are ways to get help and support. At Orange County Behavioral Health, we specialize in treating people with medical health conditions like PTSD.