PTSD symptoms are not just experienced by military personnel, disaster victims or those working in a combat environment. June is PTSD Awareness Month. Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) is a common reaction following a traumatic incident. PTSD symptoms can present themselves following severe illness, physical trauma, accidents, physical or sexual assault, combat or war situations, or after witnessing a traumatic event which has happened to another person. People from all walks of life can experience PTSD symptoms.
Studies have shown that most people who have experienced a traumatic event will encounter some symptoms of PTSD within the first few weeks of the triggering incident. Most individuals will see improvement in their symptoms within the first few weeks and many will cease having symptoms within a few months. Research has shown that 20-40% of individuals will experience symptoms for at least one month with one-half to two-thirds of those recovering in the first year. The remainder may experience disability for much longer periods with sexual and physical assault victims experiencing the highest rates of PTSD symptoms.
It was previously thought that the more severe the initial stressor, the more likely it was that a person would develop PTSD symptoms but this is not supported by research. The survivor’s emotional response immediately following the traumatic incident is a better predictor of PTSD symptoms than the specific trauma involved. This research has shown that PTSD is more likely to occur in those who displayed panic attacks, extreme fear, or dissociation (blocking out the trauma) immediately following the traumatic event.
Certain individuals are more likely to develop PTSD in comparison to others. People more vulnerable tend to be those with a history of anxiety, depression, anger issues, those who avoid discussing their problems, and those who have experienced previous trauma. Women are twice as likely to develop PTSD as men and people’s attitudes or beliefs about their safety can interfere with recovery.
There is evidence which indicates that PTSD can appear as a result of an accumulation of psychological distress and not necessarily due to one traumatic event in time. This is often seen in first responders such as paramedics and police who often lack support structures in their workplace to help prevent the development of PTSD symptoms.
PTSD symptoms can have significant impacts on a person’s daily life and can cause them to avoid activities which are important parts of life like driving or maintaining social relationships. Negative thought patterns, such as angry or resentful thoughts, feeling overwhelmed and unable to cope, or feeling unsafe in ordinary circumstances, tend to contribute to more difficulties coping with PTSD and the traumatic event. Sleep disturbances and fatigue can be present as can financial issues due to increased absences from work.
What are the symptoms of PTSD?
The following PTSD symptoms, if present for more than one month, can indicate PTSD in adults:
One or more of the following:
- dreams or nightmares about similar incidents or the event
- reminders of the event cause distress
- images or thoughts about the event which are intrusive
- illusions or flashbacks (may be seen in children through play)
- physical symptoms of distress when remembering the event
At least one of the following:
- avoiding the places, people, objects, situations, or activities that are reminders of the event
- avoiding thoughts or feelings related to the traumatic event
At least two of the following:
- Loss of interest in activities previously enjoyed
- Blaming self or others
- Feeling detached, alienated, or isolated from others
- Negative expectations and beliefs about the world (the world is a dangerous place to live) or about oneself (I am a horrible person)
- Inability or difficulty experiencing positive emotions
- Persistent negative emotions related to trauma such as horror, guilt, anger, shame, or fear
- Unable to remember key aspects of an event without having lost consciousness
At least two of the following:
- behavior that is aggressive or irritable
- careless or self-destructive behavior
- always on guard (hypervigilance)
- Easily scared or startled
- problems concentrating
- sleep changes or disturbances
Because our treatment for depression and anxiety programs rely on evidence based practices, our Intensive Outpatient Program shares many common methods with other successful treatment methods. The foundation of our treatment program for relies on the principles of the stages of change, cognitive behavioral therapy, solution focused treatment, skills training and identifying repetitive dysfunctional behavioral relationship patterns to promote recovery from depression and other mental health disorders. In fact, our Intensive Outpatient Program in Memphis, TN that has been proven to be effective in the treatment of these disorders in six peer reviewed treatment outcome studies. Our treatment center provides services to those who need more treatment than one hour a week, but less than 24 hour care, by providing three hours of treatment per day, three to five days per week, in an intensive outpatient setting. It is also important to keep in mind that women and men often experience depression differently and therefore the presence of depression may also appear differently based on gender. If you or a loved one is showing signs of depression or anxiety, including PTSD, they should be assessed by a trained mental health professional who can help design a treatment plan for depression that can result in recovery. Treatment for depression and anxiety can be highly successful and people who have completed our program have resulted in our treatment program receiving very highly consumer satisfaction scores and reviews. Call us at 901-682-6136 to schedule an appointment.