It is normal to feel anxious, sad or disconnected after a traumatic event. You may feel that you’ll never forget what happened. But if you have a constant sense of distress and the painful memories don’t fade you may be suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). It is important to seek help and reach out for support. Therapy is an effective way that can help you overcome PTSD and get back to your normal life.
PTSD, or Posttraumatic Stress Disorder, is a psychiatric disorder that can occur following exposure of actual life-threatened events or death, combat-stress, natural disasters, serious injuries, or physical or sexual assault in adult or childhood. It’s normal for the mind and body to be in shock after such an event, and this experience is often expected of someone who is experiencing a trauma.
The following symptoms apply to adults, adolescents, and children older than 6 years. Children who are 6 years and younger, it is recommended to seek a trained professional for further evaluation.
The disturbance, regardless of its trigger, causes clinically significant distress or impairment in the individual’s social interactions, capacity to work or other important areas of functioning. There are four main types of PTSD symptoms and they can arise suddenly, gradually, or come and go over time:
PTSD develops differently from person to person. The symptoms of PTSD most commonly develop in the hours or days after the traumatic event but sometimes they don’t surface for months or even years after the event occurred. They may also come and go.
The symptoms of PTSD can be different in children than those in adults. PTSD symptoms in children may include:
Military service is the most common cause of PTSD in men. Close to 30 percent of Afghanistan and Iraq War veterans treated at V.A. hospitals and clinics have been diagnosed with PTSD. For veterans who saw combat, the numbers are even higher, up to 49%. Under the guidance of a professional therapist, there are several types of treatment for PTSD available (see below).
Post-traumatic stress disorder can disrupt your whole life: your job, your relationships, your health and your enjoyment of everyday activities. Having PTSD also may increase your risk of other mental health problems, such as:
Suicidal thoughts and feelings are common symptoms of PTSD. If you are thinking about taking your own life, seek help immediately. Talk to someone you trust, or call a suicide helpline:
Recovering from PTSD involves helping the nervous system return to its balance. This process is easier with the guidance and support of an experienced therapist.
Therapy for PTSD relieves symptoms by helping you deal with the trauma you’ve experienced. The therapist will encourage and help you recall and process the emotions instead of avoiding them in order to reduce their powerful hold on your life.
Several types of psychotherapy, also called talk therapy, may be used to treat children and adults with PTSD. Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) is an efficient way to deal with PTSD. Trauma-focused cognitive-behavioral therapy involves carefully and gradually facing thoughts, feelings, and situations that remind you of the trauma. Therapy also involves identifying upsetting thoughts about the traumatic event–particularly thoughts that are distorted and irrational—and replacing them with more balanced picture.
Psychotherapy can also help you if you've developed other problems related to your traumatic experience, such as depression, anxiety, or misuse of alcohol or drugs. You don't have to try to handle the burden of PTSD on your own. Getting help and support in time may prevent normal stress reactions from getting worse and developing into PTSD.
What to expect during PTSD therapy:
Professional therapy or counseling can help you understand your thoughts and discover ways to cope with your feelings. But there are plenty of things you can do in the meantime to help yourself cope with PTSD symptoms, such as:
PTSD can take a heavy toll on relationships and family life. It can significantly strain the emotional and mental health of loved ones and friends. The person you love may seem like a different person than you knew before the trauma: angry and irritable, for example, or withdrawn and depressed. The symptoms of PTSD can also result in job loss, substance abuse, and other stressful problems.
Frank Gillespie has a Master's Degree in Counseling from LaSalle University in Philadelphia. He is a nationally Certified Counselor (NCC). He has provided therapy for over 23 years. During his career, he has helped more than 10,000 people move past their obstacles towards reaching their potential and fulfillment in their lives. He practices Cognitive Behavioral Therapy with a warm and nurturing approach. In addition to being a therapist, Frank has been an adjunct college professor teaching social work, a clinical consultant, a clinical director, and a seminar speaker. Frank has recently retired from his full time practice to focus on a part time online practice. He is married. He enjoys listening to music, watching sports, power walking, swimming, reading and writing.