Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder

May 26, 2012

How many of us have experienced a traumatic life event?  I am sure most of us can answer yes.  But when that event causes ongoing distress and disruption of an individual’s life for more than a month after the event, there could be something more going on than normal stress.  According the Hazelden Foundation, research indicates that 7 to 12 percent of people develop post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) at some point in their lives.  Women are more likely than men to develop the disorder.

What is a traumatic event?  A traumatic event can include combat or military experiences, sexual or physical abuse or assault.  It can also include experiencing a serious accident or natural disaster.  Even witnessing someone else experience a traumatic event can cause post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).  In fact, according to Postpartum Support International, 1% to 6% of women experience postpartum post-traumatic stress disorder after giving birth to a child.

What are some of the symptoms of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)?  According the the Mayo Clinic, symptoms usually start within three months of the trauma but in a some cases symptoms may not appear for years after the event.  If you are experiencing some of the following symptoms continually after a traumatic event, it is very possible that you have Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD).

Some of the symptoms may include:

  • Flashbacks, or reliving the traumatic event for minutes or even days at a time
  • Upsetting dreams about the traumatic event
  • Trying to avoid thinking or talking about the traumatic event
  • Feeling emotionally numb
  • Avoiding activities you once enjoyed
  • Hopelessness about the future
  • Memory problems
  • Trouble concentrating
  • Difficulty maintaining close relationships
  • Irritability or anger
  • Overwhelming guilt or shame
  • Self-destructive behavior, such as drinking too much
  • Trouble sleeping
  • Being easily startled or frightened
  • Hearing or seeing things that aren’t thereThese symptoms may be sporadic.  Dealing with stress or reminders of the event may increase the symptoms.  It is important that if you believe you may be experiencing Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), that you seek help.


What type of help is available?  According to the National Center for PTSD, there are effective treatments for Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder available.  Therapy and medication have been found to be effective treatments for Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD).  In particular, Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) appears to be the most effective treatment for the disorder.  In this type of therapy, your therapist helps you learn to understand and change your thoughts about your trauma and its aftermath.  There are other therapies, such as group therapy and family therapy, that can also help in the treatment of the disorder.

I, personally, have found the benefits of therapy to be invaluable to my recovery from the trauma I experienced relating to the onset of postpartum psychosis and my subsequent hospitalizations.  There is hope for those experiencing post-traumatic stress.  Remember you are not alone, you are not to blame, and things will get better with proper care and treatment.

Many of us recognize that soldiers are at risk for experiencing Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD).  As we celebrate Memorial Day, I honor all of the soldiers, both past and present, including my own father, who was a World War II pilot, that have made sacrifices for our freedom.  May we never forget!

What treatments have helped best for those who have experienced post-traumatic stress disorder?  Please share your thoughts and experiences.