Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder: Overview · Dept. of Veterans Affairs · Postpartum PTSD · Alternative Treatments · NJ National Alliance on Mental Illness · NJ Specialists
When we think about post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), it’s typically in the context of military service members and veterans — and for good reason. But actually, about eight million civilian Americans also experience PTSD.
While any traumatic experience can lead to PTSD — most often sexual assault/abuse, natural disasters, accidents, injuries, or being in a life-threatening situation — it’s more common for people to have nightmares or flashbacks for a few weeks and then gradually improve (though symptoms may not start occurring for weeks or months afterwards). It’s when the following symptoms don’t improve and begin to interfere with a person’s life that a mental health evaluation should be considered:
- At least one “re-experiencing” symptom (flashbacks, bad dreams, frightening thoughts)
- At least one avoidance symptom (avoiding thoughts, feeling, places, objects or events related to the traumatic experience)
- At least two arousal and reactivity symptoms (easily startled, feeling tense, difficulty sleeping, outbursts of anger)
- At least two cognition and mood symptoms (difficulty remembering details of the traumatic experience, negative thoughts, distorted feelings, loss of interest)
Those with PTSD typically respond to therapies such as:
- Support groups provide the opportunity to share thoughts, fears and questions with others who have also experienced trauma
- Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) helps a person replace their negative thoughts and behaviors with positive ones
- Eye movement desensitization and reprocessing (EDMR) exposes a person to traumatic memories with varying stimuli, such as eye movements
- Exposure therapy helps a person safely face their fears so they can learn to cope with them
- Imagery rehearsal therapy (IRT) is a new treatment for reducing the intensity and frequency of nightmares
Whether you’re a military service member or veteran, a salesperson, student, or even a new mother or father, PTSD has the potential to develop in any of us. And if it does, please know that help is available.
There’s no need to face PTSD alone.