Trauma and PTSD
Trauma and PTSD
Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is a mental health condition that's triggered by a terrifying event — either experiencing it or witnessing it. Symptoms may include flashbacks, nightmares, and severe anxiety, as well as uncontrollable thoughts about the event.
According to the American Psychological Association (2020), trauma is an emotional response to a stressful or distressing event after which individuals commonly experience shock or denial. They may also experience "unpredictable emotions, flashbacks, strained relationships, and even physical symptoms.
Post-traumatic stress disorder symptoms may start within one month of a traumatic event, but sometimes symptoms may not appear until years after the event. These symptoms cause significant problems in social or work situations and in relationships. They can also interfere with your ability to go about your normal daily tasks.
PTSD symptoms are generally grouped into four types: intrusive memories, avoidance, negative changes in thinking and mood, and changes in physical and emotional reactions. Symptoms can vary over time or vary from person to person.
Intensity of symptoms
PTSD symptoms can vary in intensity over time. You may have more PTSD symptoms when you're stressed in general, or when you come across reminders of what you went through. For example, you may hear a car backfire and relive combat experiences. Or you may see a report on the news about a sexual assault and feel overcome by memories of your own assault.
When to get emergency help
If you think you may hurt yourself or attempt suicide, call 911 or your local emergency number immediately.
If you know someone who's in danger of attempting suicide or has made a suicide attempt, make sure someone stays with that person to keep him or her safe. Call 911 or your local emergency number immediately. Or, if you can do so safely, take the person to the nearest hospital emergency room.
Call a suicide hotline number — in the United States, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (1-800-273-8255) to reach a trained counselor. Use that same number and press 1 to reach the Veterans Crisis Line.
People of all ages can have post-traumatic stress disorder. However, some factors may make you more likely to develop PTSD after a traumatic event, such as:
Experiencing intense or long-lasting trauma
Having experienced other trauma earlier in life, such as childhood abuse
Having a job that increases your risk of being exposed to traumatic events, such as military personnel and first responders
Having other mental health problems, such as anxiety or depression
Having problems with substance misuse, such as excess drinking or drug use
Lacking a good support system of family and friends
Having blood relatives with mental health problems, including anxiety or depression
Kinds of traumatic events
The most common events leading to the development of PTSD include:
Childhood physical abuse
Being threatened with a weapon
Many other traumatic events also can lead to PTSD, such as fire, natural disaster, mugging, robbery, plane crash, torture, kidnapping, life-threatening medical diagnosis, terrorist attack, and other extreme or life-threatening events.
Post-traumatic stress disorder can disrupt your whole life ― your job, your relationships, your health and your enjoyment of everyday activities.
Having PTSD may also increase your risk of other mental health problems, such as:
Depression and anxiety
Issues with drugs or alcohol use
Suicidal thoughts and actions
Getting timely help and support may prevent normal stress reactions from getting worse and developing into PTSD. This may mean turning to family and friends who will listen and offer comfort. It may mean seeking out a mental health professional for a brief course of therapy. Some people may also find it helpful to turn to their faith community.
TAL CMHC offers beneficial services that encourage insight, self-reflection, and healthy coping mechanisms. Our therapists reinforce positive emotions, placing emphasis on positive behaviors and the connection these behaviors have with feelings.