When Trauma Becomes PTSD

Apr 13th, 2020

Trauma can happen to anyone at any age. Experiences such as a physical or sexual assault, abuse, accident, natural disaster, military combat, or the violent or sudden death of a loved one can have a lasting effect on an individual’s mental health.

The impacts of trauma can leave individuals struggling with painful memories and upsetting emotions, while feeling numb and disconnected. Those managing trauma may even have trouble sleeping and be unable to engage in daily routines.

Most individuals will start to feel better after a few weeks or months. However, if symptoms persist, it may indicate Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD).

To help understand the effect trauma can have on mental health, our Oceans experts address some of the most common questions about the disease.

Please note: This content is designed to provide education and is not meant to diagnose or treat a disease. If you think you or someone you know is experiencing a medical issue, including PTSD, contact a physician for help.

Q: What is Trauma?

A: Trauma is the psychological and emotional response to a deeply distressing or disturbing event. If you’ve experienced a terrifying event that’s left you feeling helpless and emotionally out of control, you may have been traumatized.

Q: What is PTSD?

A: PTSD (Posttraumatic Stress Disorder) is a mental health disorder that’s triggered by experiencing or witnessing a traumatic event, such as combat, sexual assault, a car accident or a natural disaster. It's normal to have upsetting memories, feel on edge, or have trouble sleeping after this type of event.

Q: What kind of events can lead to PTSD?

A: Any experience that threatens your life or someone else’s can cause PTSD. Types of traumatic events that can cause PTSD include:

  • Combat and other military experiences
  • Sexual or physical assault
  • Learning about the violent or accidental death or injury of a loved one
  • Serious accidents, like a car wreck
  • Natural disasters, like a fire, tornado, hurricane, flood, or earthquake
  • Terrorist attacks

During this kind of event, you may not have any control over what’s happening and feel very afraid. Anyone who has gone through something like this can develop PTSD.

Q: Who’s at risk to develop PTSD?

A: Anyone can develop PTSD. When a person experiences, witnesses, or even learns about an extremely frightening event, especially one involving death, terrible injury, or sexual abuse, they have an increased PTSD risk.

Q: What other problems can occur from PTSD?

A: PTSD symptoms often co-exist with other conditions such as depression, anxiety or a substance use disorder. PTSD can also lead to suicidal thoughts or attempts.

Q: How common is it?

A: 7.7 million Americans have PTSD. According to the National Center for Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, about 7 or 8 out of every 100 people will experience PTSD at some point in their lives.

Women are twice as likely as men to suffer from PTSD as they are more susceptible to domestic violence and sexual abuse. PTSD is also extremely common among military members. Up to 30% of women or men in active war zones go on to develop PTSD.

Q: What are the symptoms of PTSD?

A: PTSD affects everyone differently. Most individuals show early symptoms of PTSD shortly after experiencing a traumatic event, but there can be a delayed PTSD reaction months or even years later. Common symptoms include:

  • Reliving the trauma through intrusive distressing recollections of the event, flashbacks, and nightmares
  • Emotional numbness and avoidance of places, people, and activities that are reminders of the event
  • Difficulty sleeping and concentrating, feeling jumpy, and being easily irritated and angered
  • Having more negative thoughts and feelings than usual

Q: When should you seek help?

A: Talk to a doctor or mental health care provider if your symptoms:

  • Last longer than a few months
  • Are very upsetting
  • Disrupt your daily life

Q: What treatment options are available?

A: With treatment and support, individuals can learn to manage symptoms, reduce painful memories, and move past trauma. PTSD may be treated with medication, psychotherapy (cognitive processing therapy or group therapy) and other methods as deemed appropriate by a physician.

Q: Why get treatment?

A: For many people, treatments can get rid of symptoms altogether. Others find they have fewer symptoms or feel symptoms are less intense. When PTSD isn’t treated, it usually doesn’t get better — it may even get worse. Getting treatment can help individuals regain control of their life.

Q: Is it too late to get treatment?

A: It’s never too late. Treatment can help even if trauma happened years ago.

At Oceans Healthcare, we understand individuals with PTSD require specialized care to achieve long-term recovery. Our inpatient and outpatient programs offer treatment for mental health issues associated with the disorder in a safe, compassionate environment for healing. If you or someone you know needs help managing mental health issues, contact us today.

 

Sources:

https://www.ptsd.va.gov/publications/print/understandingptsd_booklet.pdf

https://www.cdc.gov/masstrauma/factsheets/public/coping.pdf

http://www.ptsdalliance.org/

https://www.nami.org/Learn-More/Mental-Health-Conditions/Posttraumatic-Stress-Disorder

 

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