Post-traumatic Stress Disorder can develop after a person has experienced an event that triggers feelings of extreme fear or terror. This disorder can develop at any age from months to sometimes years after a traumatic event has occurred. It is also influenced by a number of different environmental and biological factors. Though not everyone develops PTSD after a traumatic event, those who have a weaker support system or a genetic predisposition for mental illness often carry a higher risk.

What do symptoms of PTSD look like?

According to the American Psychiatric Association, there are four main symptoms, which can vary in severity:

➔ Intrusions: Intrusive thoughts, nightmares, and memories so vivid they make the person feel like they are reliving the traumatic event.
➔ Avoidance: Avoiding environments or people that may remind them of their trauma, as well as speaking about how it has impacted them.
➔ Alterations in cognition and mood: Having gaps in their memory about the event. Thoughts that misrepresent their reality after the event (ie. “It was my fault” “I am bad”), wrongly placing culpability about the event onto the self or other to cope, and Feeling detached and disinterested in things they once enjoyed.
➔ Alterations in arousal and activity: Outbursts of anger, reckless behavior that endangers the self or others, hyper vigilance, being easily startled or having trouble sleeping.

What are some of the treatments?

It is possible to recover from PTSD, and it is not always cause for psychiatric intervention as symptoms may subside over time. However, for those with persistent symptoms that disrupt their daily lives most treatment plans include either medication, psychotherapy (talk therapy) or a combination of the two. More intensive treatments might include exposure therapy, CBT (Cognitive Behavioral Therapy) and EMDR (eye movement desensitization and reprocessing) therapy.

How can you help someone with PTSD?

An important component in recovery is having a support system of trusted family or friends. Knowing that you have a safe space to talk about your experiences and how you are coping after the fact makes a tremendous difference for those recovering from PTSD. If you are trying to help a family member or friend in their recovery it is important to remember that their mood may be greatly affected by this disorder, and may make it more difficult to open up and process these feelings. Maintaining an openness to learn and listen as well as offering understanding and empathy are probably the most meaningful ways to help a loved one. Recovery from PTSD can be a long road, but studies show that people who often experience PTSD—the most resilience are the ones that have a strong support system to help them through their struggles.

Some symptoms of PTSD can be so intense that they lead to suicidal thoughts. If you or a loved one are experiencing these thoughts you can seek help through these resources:

➔ For an immediate emergency: 911
➔ The National Suicide Hotline open 24hrs 7 days a week: 988
➔ Trauma Support Groups in the Orlando Area:  (321)-972-4265

This article was contributed by Rollins Clinical Psychology student, Shannon Caicedo.


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