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What Is Posttraumatic Stress Disorder & How Is It Treated?

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Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is a mental health issue that sometimes occurs after people experience stressful, dangerous, or traumatic events in life. It is important to understand the condition so you can identify the possibility of post-traumatic stress disorder treatment.

The disorder causes feelings of:

  • Stress
  • Anxiety
  • Depression
  • Insomnia
  • And other symptoms

Symptoms of post-traumatic stress may appear soon after a traumatic event, or they may take months—even years—to develop. People of all ages, backgrounds, and genders can experience PTSD, meaning it’s much more common than some may think.

It is important to understand the condition so you can identify the possibility of post-traumatic stress disorder treatment.

Facts and Statistics About PTSD in Adults

It’s estimated that about 8 million adults in the United States struggle with PTSD every year. However, the stigma surrounding the disorder is starting to wane. The U.S. Senate even made June 27th PTSD Awareness Day, a sign people are feeling more comfortable asking for help.

The term was first coined for military service members in the 1980s, but before that, the condition was known as “shell shock” or simply being fatigued from battle. The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs even has a National Center for PTSD where veterans can go for information and help.

Here are some more stats about post-traumatic stress disorder:

  • 60% of men will have a traumatic experience in their life
  • 50% of women will have a traumatic experience in their life
  • Between 7% and 8% of people experience PTSD in their life
  • Approximately 10% of women develop PTSD during their life
  • Approximately 4% of men develop PTSD during their life

How Is PTSD Diagnosed?

PTSD is diagnosed by a mental health professional, such as a psychologist or psychiatrist. First, they conduct an individual assessment, where they ask questions about your thoughts, feelings, reactions, intrusive memories, and behavior related to the traumatic event. They may also use structured questionnaires designed specifically for diagnosing PTSD.

To receive a PTSD diagnosis, someone must experience all of these symptoms for at least 30 days:

  • One “re-living the traumatic memory” symptom
  • One instance of avoidance
  • Two instances of being “on edge” or easily startled
  • Two cognition and mood symptoms like negative thoughts or feelings of guilt
Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) Awareness

Signs of PTSD

Symptoms of PTSD can affect the way you live your life. It’s important to remember symptoms are different in everyone. In general, there are four main symptoms people with PTSD experience:

  • Reliving what happened in your mind. This most often occurs as flashbacks or nightmares which trigger painful memories. Simple things like sounds smells, or even bad news can all trigger flashbacks.
  • Staying away from things you once loved. If a certain activity or place triggers memories and flashbacks, you may avoid those things altogether, even if you once liked the place or activity.
  • Being more negative. A traumatic experience can affect your outlook on life. You may trust people less or have trouble feeling happy or showing love.
  • Feeling unsettled. Anxiety, nervousness, and a feeling of being “on edge” are all common symptoms of PTSD. Loud noises may be more startling, and getting to sleep is often difficult.

Other signs of PTSD include:

  • Nightmares and insomnia
  • Erupting into a fit of rage whenever something/someone brings up the traumatic incident
  • Irritability and quick-tempered anger
  • Acting helpless or distant
  • Denying the occurrence of the incident or feeling numb

Types of PTSD

Not everyone experiences PTSD in the same way. As the medical and scientific community learns more about what PTSD is and how to treat it, they’ve identified several subcategories of PTSD which can require their treatment programs.

Normal Stress Response

Stress is something everyone deals with. There’s family stress, job stress, stress about school, life events, and more. How you react to it is your normal stress response. Maybe you’re having trouble paying all the bills or someone close to you is sick. Everyone reacts differently to stresses like those so it’s important to have a support system in place to help you get through life’s difficult times. The normal stress response is a precursor to PTSD and can develop into PTSD if not addressed.

Acute Stress Disorder

When something traumatic happens, like an accident or natural disaster, it can cause acute stress disorder (ASD). Though they may have similar symptoms, ASD is not the same thing as PTSD. ASD symptoms generally appear within the first month of a traumatic experience and carry a high potential to turn into PTSD over time. Behavioral therapy has been proven effective in treating ASD, and those who undergo treatment are less likely to develop PTSD in the future.

Uncomplicated PTSD

Uncomplicated PTSD is the most common subcategory of post-traumatic stress disorder. It’s generally easier to diagnose and treat because it often stems from a single traumatic experience or event in someone’s life. Behavioral health professionals don’t need to identify the source of the trauma, as it’s obvious. They can begin treatment right away.

Complex PTSD

Complex PTSD is more difficult to identify and treat because, unlike uncomplicated PTSD, the source of trauma is prolonged exposure, not one major trauma. Cases of domestic violence or instances of sexual abuse are examples of trauma that can lead to complex PTSD. Long-term trauma can cause problems with your:

  • Behavior
  • Emotions
  • Cognitive skills
  • Social interactions

Complex PTSD can cause you to think less of yourself and distort your views of the person or activity causing the trauma. Feelings of hopelessness are common with mental disorders like complex PTSD.

Comorbid PTSD

When post-traumatic stress occurs along with other mental or behavioral health issues, it’s known as comorbid PTSD. Unfortunately, many of the symptoms found in PTSD also overlap with those of other psychiatric disorders. This can make diagnosis and treatment challenging. Substance abuse is another concern with comorbid PTSD as some may try to self-medicate with drugs and alcohol. This can make PTSD symptoms worse over time, particularly during drug or alcohol withdrawal.

Dual Diagnosis Treatment for PTSD

There isn’t one thing that causes PTSD. Some people develop it after an unexpected death in the family. Some people experience it after accidents or situations where their life was in danger. People in the military can develop PTSD from their service after they return to civilian life.

Millions of adults experience PTSD and other traumatic stress, but the condition carries a stigma that sometimes prevents people from seeking the help they need. Sometimes they turn to drugs or alcohol to feel better when PTSD symptoms occur. But post-traumatic stress disorder and substance abuse do not mix. Drugs and drinking may feel like they help the symptoms of PTSD in the short term, but substances can make PTSD symptoms and mental illness worse over time. Alcohol abuse and drug addiction can even lead to other health problems. 

If you struggle with both addiction and PTSD, dual diagnosis treatment at a recovery center like Footprints to Recovery should be your next step. Dual diagnosis is a cognitive behavioral approach—a form of talk therapy— to PTSD and addiction that helps patients with co-occurring issues. This form of treatment helps you identify negative thoughts and emotions so you can respond to them in constructive ways, rather than turning to alcohol or drugs. This is important in PTSD and addiction treatment because it gives you back the power to control your reactions to thoughts and feelings.

Therapies for Addiction Treatment

What Is Childhood PTSD (CPTSD)?

Adults aren’t the only ones who experience PTSD. Children can also suffer from a form of the disorder called childhood post-traumatic stress disorder, or CPTSD. Just like adults, children can experience stressful, scary, and dangerous situations. Children who experience trauma themselves, or witness it happen to others, can develop symptoms of PTSD.

There are several mental and physical traumas that can lead to PTSD symptoms in children. Some of them include:

  • Parents’ divorce
  • Animal bites
  • Car accidents
  • Shots or other medical procedures
  • Domestic violence
  • Sexual abuse
  • Bullying
  • Natural disasters like tornados, hurricanes, or earthquakes

Any situation or event that causes stress, anxiety, fear, or physical pain in a child can potentially play a role in PTSD. Symptoms of CPTSD are similar to PTSD symptoms in adults. Children may have trouble sleeping. They may look or act sad. They may lose interest in things they once liked. They could have trouble focusing in school or experience more jitters and nervousness during the day.

The Connection Between PTSD and Veterans

Veterans of the military or first responders who experience PTSD are not alone. Many struggle with it and don’t know where to turn for help.

According to data from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), the trauma of combat may contribute to substance abuse in veterans. According to the National Center for PTSD, PTSD and substance abuse treatment in veterans involves evidence-based treatments conducted in a safe and caring place. Veterans and first responders who undergo PTSD treatment learn how to manage symptoms without substance abuse or misuse. These healthy coping skills are important for overcoming the painful memories and flashbacks that make everyday life more difficult.

Anyone who has served is at risk for PTSD, but those recently home from combat are at an increased risk. Combat exposes service members to terrible trauma that can follow them even after returning home. To treat PTSD in these cases, experts use talk therapies to address trauma and, in some cases, medication to manage symptoms. Treatment programs are personalized because everyone’s traumas are unique. Addressing your trauma and learning coping skills that work for you is a key step in the recovery process.

Finding Effective Treatment for PTSD

The most important thing to know about treatment for post-traumatic stress is that it works. Those who get help for their post-traumatic stress learn the skills and coping mechanisms they need to feel better and live life to the fullest. There are multiple treatments and programs used to treat PTSD that use evidence-based therapies conducted by professional trauma counselors.

Talk therapy for PTSD helps someone identify negative thoughts and feelings that trigger symptoms. After those triggers have been identified, it’s then necessary to develop skills and coping mechanisms so those negative thoughts and feelings don’t end up in control.  

Some different types of talk therapy include:

  • Cognitive processing therapy (CPT) – CPT involves a fundamental change in how you think and feel since experiencing trauma. An ability to change how you think can reduce how strongly PTSD affects you.
  • Prolonged exposure (PE) therapy – Avoidance is common among those who suffer from PTSD. Exposure therapy reintroduces things that trigger memories so you can feel comfortable with them again.
  • Eye movement desensitization and reprocessing (EMDR) – This type of PTSD treatment involves a movement or sound that, when utilized as someone recalls their trauma, can help them adjust the way they think about the memory. The goal is to create a shift in the way the information is processed.

Does Insurance Cover the Treatment of PTSD?

One of the most common questions people have is how to pay for mental health care. Cost should never prevent someone from getting the PTSD treatment they need. Fortunately, insurance may cover a part or all of the cost of PTSD treatment. All insurance providers and policies are different. Checking with the team at Footprints to Recovery for insurance verification can give you a better idea about what options are available.

Footprints to Recovery helps make mental health treatment more accessible by accepting most major health insurance. Depending on your policy, your insurance may cover all or a portion of your treatment costs. Our clinicians will work with you to ensure you get the help you need within your insurance coverage.

Footprints to Recovery is a rehab center offering treatment options for post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Whether you’re a veteran suffering from PTSD or an individual who experienced trauma in their life, Footprints to Recovery has a comprehensive and customized treatment plan with levels of care that meet your needs. The skilled staff of addiction and mental health experts help those struggling with PTSD get their lives back on the right track. Contact us today and learn about treatment for PTSD.

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