What is Posttraumatic Stress Disorder?

Traumatic events can affect a person’s psychological health in a number of ways. Most people who experience trauma will have some kind of psychological reaction, such as fear, sadness, guilt or anger but will often find that these reactions improve over time. However, some people will go on to develop a more severe reaction, called posttraumatic stress disorder (or PTSD), which can seriously disrupt their lives.

Individuals with PTSD will experience some symptoms from each of the following categories:

Re-living the traumatic event through unwanted memories, nightmares or flashbacks that leave the person feeling that they are being confronted by the trauma on a regular basis. They may also notice intense physical or emotional distress whenever they are reminded of the event.

Attempts to avoid reminders of the traumatic event, either by attempting to restrict thoughts, feelings and conversations about the event, or attempting to stay away from people, places and situations that remind them of the trauma.

Changes in thoughts and feelings so that they often feel overwhelmed by negative feelings such as fear, sadness or anger or repeated negative thoughts about the event and its consequences. Other changes in feelings might include feeling cut off from friends or family, not enjoying things like they normally would or feeling emotionally numb.

Feeling hyper-alert and ready for danger such that they may experience difficulty sleeping or concentrating, be more irritable or snappy than normal or notice that they are unusually jumpy and easily startled

In addition to these symptoms, people with PTSD may also notice some other common changes such as feelings of depression, a loss of trust in others, feelings of guilt or anger, a loss of self-esteem or an increasing dependence on alcohol or other drugs.

People with PTSD require professional treatment. Untreated, PTSD can become a chronic and debilitating disorder, so it is important that effective treatment is obtained as soon as possible. There are effective treatments available for PTSD. More information about our treatments for PTSD can be found here.