What is PTSD?
PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder) is a mental health condition that’s triggered by a terrifying event.
This occurs following the experience or witnessing a life threatening event such as:
- Military combat
- Natural disasters
- Terrorist incidents
- Serious accidents
- Physical or sexual assault (in adult or childhood)
The above list is not complete by any means, it is just a representation.
What are the symptoms of PTSD?
Symptoms will typically start within three months of the traumatic event, although there are cases that have not shown symptoms until years after the fact.
1) Intrusive memories
o Flashbacks, reliving the trauma for minutes or days at a time
o Becomes upset when confronted with reminder of the trauma
o Thinks about trauma when thoughts should be on something else
o Upsetting dreams about the traumatic event
2) Avoidance and numbing
o Avoiding talking or thinking about the event
o Staying away from places or people that remind them of the trauma
o Isolating from other people
o Feeling emotionally numb
o Avoiding activities previously enjoyed
o Hopelessness about the future
o Memory problems
o Trouble concentrating
o Difficulty maintaining close relationships
3) Emotional arousal (hyperarousal)
o Irritability or anger
o Overwhelming guilt or shame
o Self destructive behavior (drinking too much, substance abuse, recklessness, etc.)
o Trouble sleeping
o Being easily startled or frightened
o Hearing or seeing things that aren’t there
Diagnosing PTSD is complicated by the biological changes that happen along with the psychological ones, such as depression, substance abuse, problems of memory and cognition, and many others to lengthy to mention here.
Due to the complexity of PTSD, it is imperative that a professional (ideally specializing in PTSD) be consulted for an official diagnoses.
When is it time to seek help?
It’s normal to feel certain emotions after a traumatic experience,
- Fear and anxiety
- Lack of focus
- Changes in sleeping and /or eating patterns
- Crying spells that catch you off guard
If these do not start to fade after a month or so, if the feelings get more severe, if you are having difficulty getting your life back under control, then it is time to seek professional help.
If you are having thoughts of harming yourself or someone else, call 911 or other emergency medical service! Ask a supportive loved one for help.
Sources for help in Pittsburgh