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What is Post Traumatic Stress Disorder?

If you witnessed or experienced something traumatic, you may find yourself experiencing common symptoms of post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

So, what is post traumatic stress disorder?

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You experienced something very bad in your past, something out of your control but that had negative affect on you mentally, physically, or both. Lately, you are thinking about this event more and more. You may even feel like you are obsessing about the event because you are not able to stop thinking about it. This could be considered symptoms of post traumatic stress disorder, or PTSD.

You do whatever you can to avoid a certain place or person. You try not to think about it because if you do, you feel stress, maybe even panic. You see avoidance of a person, place or thing as the only way to prevent the return of memories associated with them. This too could be a symptom of post-traumatic stress disorder.

If you recognize symptoms such as these, you are not alone. In fact, 70 percent of Americans claimed to have had at least one traumatic experience in their life. This is well over 200 million people, all suffering from the after-effects of a traumatizing event.

PTSD can be overwhelming, but there is help and hope for overcoming your symptoms. Learning more about the disorder is a good first step. Below you will learn how PTSD is defined, what causes the disorder, who can be affected by PTSD, and some of the most common symptoms.

You will also learn how to find the right professional help in overcoming PTSD.

What is Post Traumatic Stress Disorder?

Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is a mental health condition triggered by a terrifying event.

Stressful events happen in everyone’s life. Some people, however, experience scary, shocking or dangerous events that are extremely severe and can create long-lasting negative effects. This is called post-traumatic stress disorder, defined by the American Psychiatric Association as a disorder that occurs in people who have witnessed or experienced first-hand a traumatic event.

After the trauma happens, victims can begin to have negative symptoms whenever they are triggered to remember the traumatic event. Triggers can happen soon after the trauma or they can happen many years later. Each person suffering from PTSD may be triggered at different times in their life and they could have different symptoms.

Symptoms of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder

There are different types of symptoms associated with post-traumatic stress disorder: re-experiencing; avoidance; arousal and reactivity; and cognition and mood.

  • Re-experiencing symptoms may include having nightmares or flashbacks of the event.

  • Avoidance is when you try to escape negative emotions associated with the traumatic event. Fear, sadness, shame and anger are all examples of negative emotions. In most avoidance situations, you try to push away any conversations, thoughts or feelings that can remind you of the trauma.

  • Arousal and reactivity are other symptoms. Even when there is not a threat of a repeat scenario involving the traumatic event you experienced, your body can sometimes feel there is. When this happens, your body shifts into hyper-alertness. It goes into overdrive, to cope with a scary or dangerous situation – even if only perceived.You may find it hard to sleep or concentrate. You may also find you are easily startled; feel panicked or have constant anxiety.

  • Cognition and mood symptoms are a little bit different from others. In this case, you may find it hard to recall the event, as if you have blocked out the memory. You may also have out-of-body experiences or feel like situations are not real. Furthermore, you may feel numbness or guilt.

Related: Should I See a Therapist?

Who Gets Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder?

Any person, male or female, child or adult, can be effected by post-traumatic stress disorder. If the person has been exposed to a traumatic event, they can experience lingering negative symptoms for days, months or years.

Some reports claim those with PTSD have an inability to return to “normal” after a severe negative event takes place. Because of this, they find it hard to cope and function.

How to Know If PTSD Has Affected You

It is never a good idea to self-diagnose a post-traumatic stress disorder. Instead, finding a therapist who specializes in working with PTSD is best. A licensed therapist will be able to assess your history and evaluate possible causes for your symptoms.

Once the evaluation is complete, a therapist will be able to give you a diagnosis, explain their results, and develop a positive treatment plan with you to help you succeed in working your PTSD symptoms.

Therapists use different, individualized treatments.

Treatment Techniques for PTSD

Psychotherapy is a very common form of treatment that has shown great results. Many studies provide evidence that psychotherapy is beneficial.

With this treatment, therapists may use a variety of activities to help you address your issues. They may use cognitive behavioral therapy, role-playing, and family therapy. Group therapy is another form of treatment used for PTSD.

In group therapy, you can meet peers who have similar symptoms, hear success stories from some, and get tips and advice on how to overcome symptoms.

For others, medications help. If you and your therapist feel you can benefit from medication, you will meet with a psychiatrist who can discuss this further. Some choose to implement self-management techniques before discussing medication.

Self-management techniques include lifestyle changes in which you begin including activities into your life that are known to improve your mind-body connection. These can include yoga, meditation, and journaling. Another self-management technique involves the use of service animals.

Service animals are becoming popular among post traumatic stress disorder therapies. Dogs are currently the most chosen type of mental health service animal and can be taken anywhere when trained and licensed appropriately to help ease symptoms of PTSD.


In conclusion, post traumatic stress disorder can affect many people, and each person can have different symptoms. While some may have panic attacks, others may exhibit anger outbursts. In addition,individuals may choose different methods to cope with their PTSD symptoms.

Some may isolate and withdraw from society; others may abuse substances and face addiction. Some may find it hard to sleep, while others find all they want to do is sleep.

The good news is there is help.

A licensed therapist will listen to you carefully and provide a comfortable environment where you can explore and speak more about your trauma so you can move forward and live your best life with positivity and confidence.

If you are interested in exploring therapy, please contact me for a complimentary consultation.