Posttraumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)
Posttraumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) is a condition that affects the mental health of those who have experienced a terrifying, traumatic event. While posttraumatic stress disorder has often been stereotyped to war veterans, PTSD can be triggered by many different terrible life events, such as natural disaster, serious accidents, terrorism, war, sexual assault/violence, death threats, and the like. Statistically, about 3.5% of the adult population experiences PTSD yearly. One in 11 people will be diagnosed with posttraumatic stress disorder at some point in their lives. It is twice as likely that women will experience PTSD in their lives, and U.S. Latinos, African Americans, and American Indians are the ethnicity groups with the highest reported PTSD.
Posttraumatic stress disorder is a condition where an individual suffers from high intensity thoughts and emotions directly related to their traumatic life event, though the trauma is in the past. It is very characteristic of posttraumatic stress disorder for the individual to relive the traumatic event through thoughts, flashbacks, and dreams. Individuals with PTSD may avoid people, places, and things that trigger memories of the traumatic event, and often have intense reactions to small stimuli, like noises, touch, or smells that appear similar to their trauma. Posttraumatic stress disorder often carries with it extreme emotions, like sadness, fear and anger, making relationships with others incredibly challenging. Oftentimes those who have experienced a major life trauma have a hard time relating to their family and friends. This can create a tendency for trauma survivors to distance themselves, often retreating deeper into the isolation of their symptoms.
The general symptoms of PTSD are broken down into four categories. Symptoms can evolve overtime, and ultimately depend on the person.
- Intrusion - Individual may experience “intrusive” thoughts of the traumatic event, like repeated memories, nightmares, or flashbacks. These intrusive thoughts can be so realistic that they are re-traumatizing.
- Avoidance - Individuals avoid all people, places, things, and circumstances that could trigger memories of the traumatic event. They avoid discussing the trauma and related thoughts/feelings.
- Negative Thoughts/Emotions - Individual experiences negative thoughts about themselves and the world; they take on a hopeless approach. They have difficulty with relating, distance themselves from loved ones, and lose interest in the activities that were once joyful. Positive emotions may be hard to access due to numbness.
- Change in Behavior/Action - Individual may act out in irritation or anger. Their behavior may become reckless or destructive. They may become overly suspicious, easily afraid, or overly anxious.
In order for an individual to be diagnosed with posttraumatic stress disorder, symptoms must persist for longer than a month, and must interfere with their ability to function healthily and happily in daily life. Generally, PTSD symptoms vary depending on life’s circumstances. Stress can certainly enhance symptoms. It is incredibly helpful to receive therapy after a traumatic event, as there are so many thoughts and emotions to sift through. Many of our providers at Colorado CBT have extensive experience in working with those who have experienced traumas of all kinds. Denver residents are welcome to make an appointment to discuss trauma treatments available at Colorado CBT.