Post Traumatic Stress Disorder

Post-traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) is a diagnosis for people who were exposed to traumatic events or situations but have a difficult time moving past it.

Specifically, PTSD is a persistent anxiety or emotional response that continues long after the traumatic event has passed. Approximately 8% of individuals who are exposed to such trauma will experience lasting PTSD symptoms. PTSD can result from many types of severe or prolonged traumatic experiences. Such experiences may include:

–          Combat exposure

–          Childhood sexual/physical abuse

–          Terrorist attacks

–          Sexual/physical assault

–          Serious accidents

–          Natural disasters

–          Being a witness to such things

What are the Symptoms of PTSD

Individuals who develop PTSD have experienced, witnessed, or were confronted by an event(s) where there was actual or threatened death, serious injury, or the where the physical integrity of their self or another was in danger. The common response to these events was helplessness, intense fear, or even horror. However, PTSD specifically involves thepersistent re-experiencing of the event(s) in at least one of the following ways:

–          Recurrent and intrusive memories of the event, including images, thoughts or perceptions

–          Recurrent distressing dreams of the event

–          Acting or feeling as if the traumatic event were recurring, including a sense of reliving the experience, illusions, hallucinations, and flashbacks, including those that occur on awakening or when intoxicated

–          Intense anxiety at exposure to a feeling or external event that symbolizes or resembles an aspect of the traumatic event

–          Bodily reactions on exposure to something that symbolizes or resembles an aspect of the traumatic event


In addition, individuals who experience PTSD tend to avoid situations or details that may trigger their memory of the trauma, and their general responsiveness may be numbed in a way that was not so before the trauma took place. Such behaviors may involve:

–          Efforts to avoid thoughts, feelings, or conversations associated with the trauma

–          Efforts to avoid activities, places, or people that arouse memory of the trauma

–          Inability to recall an important aspect of the trauma

–          Decreased interest or participation in significant activities

–          Feeling of detachment or estrangement from others

–          Limited range of affect (ex: unable to have loving feelings)

–          Sense of foreshortened future (does not expect to have a career, family, etc)


Many individuals with PTSD have an increased sense of arousal that was not present before the trauma, such as:


–          Difficulty falling asleep

–          Irritability or outbursts of anger

–          Difficulty concentrating

–          Hypervigilance – constantly being on guard

–          Easily startled by things

What are the Treatments for PTSD?

Cognitive-behavior therapies (CBT) have been shown to be very effective in treating PTSD. In some cases, medication may be used along with psychotherapy. CBT helps the individual to become aware of the thoughts and beliefs they have about the past traumatic experience that influence them to keep reliving it in their present life. The treatment also helps the person to recognize where avoidance may contribute to the persistent suffering related to the past trauma. Psychotherapy also involves exposure to the memories of the traumatic event in a supportive and compassionate way, so that the individual can successfully integrate the experience. CBT and other related therapies that we offer, such as Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT), help the individual learn that s/he does not need to view their thoughts and beliefs as literal realities, but rather as simply events in the mind. When we do not react to our thoughts and beliefs as literal realities, we can create room to live our lives in personally valuable and meaningful ways.