Post-traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)

Note: Recently Post-traumatic Stress Disorder has been re-classified as a trauma or stress- related disorder instead of an anxiety disorder. This might help de-stigmatize PTSD since it is no longer an anxiety-related mental illness but a disorder caused by an external event.

Definition: Post-traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) is a disorder that is triggered by a terrifying event that was either experienced or witnessed. Symptoms must last at least one month, seriously affect one’s ability to function, and can’t be due to substance abuse, medical illness, or anything except the event itself in order to be diagnosed as Post-traumatic Stress Disorder.
This diagnosis is indicated for people ages 6 and older. There is now pre-school criteria for those younger than 6.

Symptoms: The symptoms are defined by criteria as follows with one or two of the symptoms needing to be present under the criteria.

Criteria A: Traumatic event

Criteria B: Intrusion or Re-experiencing

Criteria C: Avoidant Symptoms

Criteria D: Negative alterations in mood

Criteria E: Increased arousal symptoms (wary, on edge, watchful for further threats)

Disassociation is separate from symptoms but can be seen in people with PTSD such as: depersonalization or feeling disconnected from one’s self; derealization, a sense that one’s surroundings aren’t real.

Causes: Although doctors aren’t sure why some people get PTSD, it is probably caused by a complex mix of inherited mental health risks, life experiences (especially if there was trauma since early childhood), a person’s personality or temperament, and possibly how the brain regulates chemicals and hormones the body releases in response to stress.

Treatment: The primary treatment for Post-traumatic Stress Disorder is psychotherapy, but often includes medication. Several types of psychotherapy (or talk therapy) are used and can work in combination, such as: Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy, Exposure Therapy, and Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR). Group therapy can also be effective. Medications that can be helpful include: antidepressants, short-term use of anti-anxiety drugs, and insomnia medication, if required.