Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)


What is PTSD?

Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is a mental health condition that some people develop after experiencing or witnessing a life-threatening event, like combat, a natural disaster, a car accident, or sexual assault. While most people who go through traumatic events will experience some level of distress, people with PTSD have symptoms that are severe and long-lasting.

The symptoms of PTSD can be grouped into four categories:

  • Intrusion: This includes intrusive thoughts, images, or memories of the traumatic event. People with PTSD may also have flashbacks, which are vivid and realistic relivings of the event.
  • Avoidance: People with PTSD may try to avoid anything that reminds them of the traumatic event. This could include places, people, or activities. They may also avoid talking about the event or their feelings about it.
  • Negative changes in thinking and mood: People with PTSD may have negative thoughts about themselves, the world, or the future. They may also feel detached or estranged from others. They may have trouble sleeping or concentrating.
  • Changes in physical and emotional reactions: People with PTSD may have exaggerated startle responses, or they may feel keyed up or on edge. They may also have difficulty controlling their emotions, and they may have physical symptoms like headaches, nausea, or stomachaches.

The symptoms of PTSD can vary in severity and can come and go over time. In some cases, the symptoms may become so severe that they interfere with a person's ability to work, go to school, or maintain relationships.

What causes PTSD?

The exact cause of PTSD is not fully understood, but it is believed to be caused by a combination of factors, including the nature of the traumatic event, the person's individual coping style, and their genetics.

How is PTSD diagnosed?

PTSD is diagnosed by a mental health professional based on a person's symptoms and history. There is no single test for PTSD, but a doctor may order other tests to rule out other medical conditions that could be causing the symptoms.

How is PTSD treated?

There are a number of effective treatments for PTSD, including psychotherapy, medication, and complementary therapies.

  • Psychotherapy: Psychotherapy, or talk therapy, is the most common treatment for PTSD. There are a number of different types of psychotherapy that can be effective for PTSD, including cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT), exposure therapy, and eye movement desensitization and reprocessing (EMDR).
  • Complementary therapies: Complementary therapies, such as yoga, meditation, and acupuncture, can also be helpful in reducing the symptoms of PTSD. However, more research is needed to determine the effectiveness of these therapies.