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Post-Traumatic Stress Disorders (PTSD)





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What is PTSD?

PTSD occurs in some people in response to a traumatic, or shocking event such as an accident, natural disaster, death, military combat, or chronic exposure to imminent danger or life-threatening events. Approximately 8 million Americans have PTSD, and it usually coexists with other mental illnesses such as substance abuse, depression, and anxiety. There are four categories of PTSD symptoms: re-experiencing, avoidance, arousal/reactivity, and cognition/mood.

To be diagnosed with PTSD, an adult must have all of the following for at least 1 month:

-At least one re-experiencing symptom

-At least one avoidance symptom

-At least two arousal and reactivity symptoms

-At least two cognition and mood symptoms

Re-experiencing Symptoms

-Flashbacks—reliving the trauma over and over, including physical symptoms like a racing heart or sweating

-Bad dreams

-Frightening thoughts

Avoidance Symptoms

-Staying away from places, events, or objects that are reminders of the traumatic experience

-Avoiding thoughts or feelings related to the traumatic event

-These are sometimes called “triggers”

Arousal and Reactivity Symptoms

-Being easily startled

-Feeling tense or “on edge”

-Having difficulty sleeping

-Having angry outbursts

Cognition and Mood Symptoms

-Trouble remembering key features of the traumatic event

-Negative thoughts about oneself or the world

-Distorted feelings like guilt or blame

-Loss of interest in enjoyable activities

If similar symptoms exist for less than a month, this may be Acute Stress Disorder (ASD). When symptoms last more than a month, and significantly impact an individuals’ everyday functioning, this might be PTSD.

Risk Factors and Resilience Factors

Factors that increase risk for PTSD include:

-Living through dangerous events and traumas

-Getting hurt

-Seeing another person hurt, or seeing a dead body

-Childhood trauma

-Feeling horror, helplessness, or extreme fear

-Having little or no social support after the event

-Dealing with extra stress after the event, such as loss of a loved one, pain and injury, or loss of a job or home

-Having a history of mental illness or substance abuse

Some resilience factors that may reduce the risk of PTSD include:

-Seeking out support from other people, such as friends and family

-Finding a support group after a traumatic event

-Learning to feel good about one’s own actions in the face of danger

-Having a positive coping strategy, or a way of getting through the bad event and learning from it

-Being able to act and respond effectively despite feeling fear



-Exposure Therapy

-Gradual exposure to the traumatic feelings in a controlled environment

-Cognitive Restructuring

-Rethinking the way a person with PTSD feels about their traumatic experience


-A combination of the both psychotherapy and medication

Where To Begin

Making an appointment with a mental health provider
Talking to your Doctor
Support Groups

All information taken from:

NAMI - National Alliance on Mental Illness. (2018). PTSD.

NIMH - U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, National Institutes of Health, National Institute of Mental Health. (2015). Depression (NIH Publication No. 15-3561). Bethesda, MD: U.S. Government Printing Office.