Definition of PTSD and its Different Types
If you are a person who has struggled with the adverses of post traumatic stress disorder you know it can debilitate and ruin lives. “Posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD), once called shell shock or battle fatigue syndrome, is a serious condition that can develop after a person has experienced or witnessed a traumatic or terrifying event in which serious physical harm occurred or was threatened. When you think of PTSD, you may think of soldiers who fought in war, or who may or may not have seen a friend get killed in battle. Well that’s not all. Any person can experience PTSD no matter what age, size, or person you are. It is more common than you think and people need to be more educated about it. PTSD is a lasting consequence of traumatic ordeals that cause intense fear, helplessness, or horror, such as a sexual or physical assault, the unexpected death of a loved one, an accident, war, or natural disaster. Families of victims can also develop PTSD, as can emergency personnel and rescue workers. (PTSD Web MD 1-10) An estimated 70 percent of adults in the United States have experienced a traumatic event at least once in their lives and up to 20 percent of these people go on to develop posttraumatic stress disorder, or PTSD. Approximately 8 percent of all adults, 1 out of 13 people in this country will develop PTSD during their lifetime. An estimated 1 out of 10 women will get PTSD at some time in their lives. Women are about twice as likely as men to develop PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder Fact Sheet; Sidran Institute 2-4). People who have PTSD may feel stressed or frightened even when they are not in danger (PTSD NIH 5).
PTSD has many signs and symptoms. You can start experiencing them sometimes within 3 months of the event, or they can show up years later depending on how traumatic the event was that you went through. There are four main categories of PTSD symptoms including reliving, avoiding, increased arousal, and negative conditions/negative moods (PTSD Web MD 1-2). To be able to get diagnosed with PTSD you have to have experienced some of these effects: one reexperiencing symptom, one avoidance symptom, at least two arousal and reactivity symptoms, at least two cognitive symptoms and mood symptoms. Some re-experiencing symptoms might include: flashbacks, frightening dreams, anxiety attacks, and frightening thoughts. Avoidance symptoms include: staying away from places or events, and avoiding thoughts and feelings related to that event. Last but not least, arousal and reactivity symptoms include: being easily startled, feeling tense or on edge, having difficulty sleeping, and having angry outbursts. Children and teens can have extreme reactions to trauma, but their symptoms may not be the same as adults.
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There are many ways you can get help for dealing with PTSD. Trauma-focused psychotherapies are the most highly recommended type of treatment for PTSD.
“Trauma-focused” means that the treatment focuses on the memory of the traumatic event or its meaning. These treatments use different techniques to help you process your traumatic experience. Some involve visualizing, talking, or thinking about the traumatic memory. Others focus on changing unhelpful beliefs about the trauma. They usually last about 8-16 sessions (PTSD: National Center for PTSD 1-6). The trauma-focused psychotherapies with the best evidence is: Prolonged Exposure, Cognitive Processing Therapy, and Eye-Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing. All of these therapies are the most effective and the best ones that get results.
There is another form of PTSD, called C-PTSD. A doctor may diagnose complex PTSD if a person has experienced prolonged or repeated trauma over a period of months or years (Complex PTSD 4). This means this person has been struggling with PTSD for years and just couldn’t recover from it as quickly as other people can. The symptoms of complex PTSD can be more enduring and extreme than those of PTSD (Complex PTSD 11). The following are some examples of trauma that can cause complex PTSD: experiencing childhood neglect, experiencing other types of abuse early in life, experiencing domestic abuse, experiencing human trafficking, being a prisoner of war, living in a region affected by war (Complex PTSD 15). Some healthcare professionals might diagnose another condition other then C-PTSD, like a personality disorder. Researchers claim that some of the side effects overlap each other which therefore makes it hard to determine which one the person may have. Although, there can be major differences. Authors of a study from 2014 reported that, for example, people with complex PTSD had consistently negative self-conceptions, while people with BPD had self-conceptions that were unstable and changing. People with complex PTSD may experience difficulties with relationships. They tend to avoid others and may feel a lack of connection (Complex PTSD 18-19). People with PTSD or complex PTSD may exhibit certain behaviors in an attempt to manage their symptoms. Examples of such behaviors include: abusing alcohol or drugs, avoiding unpleasant situations by becoming “people-pleasers”, lashing out at minor criticisms, and self-harm (Web MD PTSD 23-26).
The amount of money it costs for people who have insurance to take care of their bills for their treatment of any type of PTSD is tremendous. The annual cost to society of anxiety disorders is estimated to be approximately $42.3 billion, often due to misdiagnosis and undertreatment. This includes psychiatric and nonpsychiatric medical treatment costs, indirect workplace costs, mortality costs, and prescription drug costs. More than half of these costs are attributed to repeat use of healthcare services to relieve anxiety-related symptoms that mimic those of other physical conditions. People with PTSD have among the highest rates of healthcare service use. People with PTSD present with a range of symptoms, the cause of which may be overlooked or undiagnosed as having resulted from past trauma. Nonpsychiatric direct medical costs, e.g., doctor and hospital visits, is $23 billion a year the largest component of the societal costs of anxiety disorders, including PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder Fact Sheet 30-40).
Some of the ten common practices in people who have shown resilience in the face of extreme stress: maintaining an optimistic but realistic outlook, facing fear (ability to confront one’s fears), relying upon one’s own inner, moral compass, turning to religious or spiritual practices, seeking and accepting social support, learning from and imitating sturdy role models, staying physically fit, staying mentally sharp, cognitive and emotional flexibility (finding a way to accept that which cannot be changed), looking for meaning and opportunity in the midst of adversity (Frequently Asked Questions about Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) 1-6).
In conclusion, PTSD can debilitate and ruin lives, but with help it can be maintained. Overall, there are many different types of PTSD that overlap with other diseases that relate to it. With the right help and the right people helping you or another person you can fight this mental health condition and possibly overcome it.