What is PTSD?
PTSD stands for posttraumatic stress disorder. In PTSD people who have experienced terrible and extremely stressful life events will develop a set of emotional and psychological problems as a reaction to those events. PTSD is considered an anxiety disorder because it is marked by an overwhelming feelings of anxiety during and after trauma.
“There are two types of PTSD. “Simple PTSD” is from a single incident (such as car accident or a tornado), usually as an adult. “Complex PTSD” is from repeated incidents such as domestic violence or ongoing childhood abuse. It has a broader range of symptoms, including problems with self harm, suicide, dissociation (“loosing time”), relationships, memory, sexuality, health, anger, shame, guilt, numbness, loss of faith and trust, and feeling damaged.”
When most people think about PTSD they think about soldiers exposed to combat, war veterans and refugees. Those people definitely qualify as individuals facing extremely stressful life events. However many people don’t realize that even more damaging situations exist in people’s own homes. It is one thing to experience a single incident or even a war for a few years then it is over. Unfortunately others live for years in situations where they are physically, emotionally as well as sexually being abused. Complex PTSD has far more damaging effects and is more difficult to recover from than simple PTSD.
How common is PTSD?
As many as 60% of males experience trauma during their lives and 5% develop PTSD. As many as 51% of women experience trauma during their lives and 10% develop PTSD. It is estimated that 5% of the population currently have PTSD. Women are twice as likely to have PTSD as men.
What are the risk factors for developing PTSD?
- early childhood trauma (physical, emotional, sexual abuse)
- parents with PTSD (this is particularly true if the parents have not treated properly their PTSD)
- exposure to extreme stressors (combat, serious or natural disasters
- displacement as refugees
- witnessing a traumatic event
- sudden, unexpected death of a loved one
What are the symptoms of PTSD?
Before I get in to the symptoms of PTSD. If you are someone who is suffering from PTSD and may not know it or maybe you do recognize it – know that you are not alone. Also know that your symptoms are NORMAL after going through what you have gone through. Many people feel like they’re “crazy” for feeling the way they do. You are not “crazy, weak or bad” This is why PTSD is called “a normal reaction to abnormal events.”
A person with PTSD experiences three main types of symptoms:
1. Re-experiencing of the traumatic event as indicated by
* Intrusive distressing recollections of the events
* Flashbacks : feeling as if the event were recurring while awake
* Nightmares: the event or other frightening images recur frequently in dreams
* Exaggerated emotional and physical reactions to triggers that remind the person of the event
2. Avoidance and emotional numbing as indicated by
* Extensive avoidance of activities, places, thoughts, feelings, or conversations related to trauma
* Loss of interest
* Feeling detached from others
* Restricted emotions
3. Increased arousal as indicated by
* difficulty sleeping
* Irritability or outbursts of anger
* Difficulty concentrating
* An exaggerated startle response
The above symptoms are the most typical reactions to trauma. However there are other problems that are also common among people who suffer from PTSD.
- panic attacks
- substance abuse
- feelings of alienation and isolation
- feelings of mistrust or betrayal
- anger and irritability
- severe impairment in daily functioning
~ Seeking safety: A Treatment Manual for PTSD and Substance Abuse by Lisa .M Najavits (2002).
~ Expert Consensus Treatment Guidelines for Posttraumatic Stress Disorder: A Guide for Patients and Family