PTSD Post Traumatic Stress Syndrome
PTSD Causes and Symptoms
Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is a mental health condition that is triggered by the trauma of experiencing or witnessing a terrifying event. PTSD symptoms can include flashbacks, nightmares and severe anxiety – as well as uncontrollable or intrusive thoughts about the event.
Emotional and psychological trauma occurs when extraordinarily stressful events shatter an individual’s usual sense of security. As a result, there is a feeling of being temporarily helpless in a dangerous world.
Most people who experience traumatic events have temporary difficulty adjusting and coping. If trauma symptoms get worse – or last more than 3 months and interfere with day-to-day functioning – you may have PTSD.
Traumatic Experiences are Unique to Each Individual
Traumatic experiences often involve a threat to life or safety. However any situation that creates a feeling of being overwhelmed and isolated can result in trauma; trauma does not need to involve physical harm. The more frightened and helpless feelings that are generated – the more likely trauma will occur.
We all react to trauma in different ways – there is a wide range of physical and emotional reactions to trauma. There is no “right” or “wrong” way to think, feel, or respond. Do not judge your own reactions or those of other people.
Your responses are NORMAL reactions to ABNORMAL events.
Getting effective treatment after PTSD symptoms develop can be critical to reduce symptoms and improve the quality of life.
Post-traumatic stress disorder symptoms may start within one month of a traumatic event. But sometimes symptoms may not appear until years after the event. These symptoms can cause significant problems in social or work situations and in relationships. PTSD symptoms can interfere with the ability to go about normal daily tasks.
Symptoms can vary over time. PTSD symptoms also vary from person to person.
PTSD Symptoms are Grouped into Four Types:
- Intrusive memories.
- Negative changes in thinking and mood.
- Hypervigilance and/or changes in physical and emotional reactions.
PTSD Symptom: Intrusive Memories
Symptoms of intrusive memories may include:
• Recurrent, unwanted distressing memories of the traumatic event
• Reliving the traumatic event as if it were happening again (flashbacks)
• Upsetting dreams or nightmares about the traumatic event
• Severe emotional distress or physical reactions to something that reminds you of the traumatic event
PTSD Symptom: Avoidance
Symptoms of avoidance may include:
• Trying to avoid thinking or talking about the traumatic event
• Avoiding places, activities or people that remind you of the traumatic event
PTSD Symptom: Negative Changes in Thinking and Mood
Symptoms of negative changes in thinking and mood may include:
• Feeling alienated and alone
• Feeling mistrust and betrayal
• Feeling guilt, shame, or self-blame
• Negative thoughts about yourself, other people or the world
• Depression and hopelessness; or sense of a limited future
• Memory problems, including not remembering important aspects of the traumatic event
• Difficulty maintaining close relationships
• Feeling detached from family and friends
• A loss of interest in activities and life in general; lack of interest in activities once enjoyed
• Difficulty experiencing positive emotions
• Feeling emotionally numb
PTSD Symptom: Hyperarousal,
Changes in Physical and Emotional Reactions
Changes in physical and emotional reactions (also called arousal symptoms) may include:
• Hypervigilance (on constant “red alert”)
• Being easily startled or frightened
• Always being on guard for danger
• Self-destructive behavior, such as drinking too much or driving too fast
• Trouble sleeping
• Trouble concentrating
• Irritability, angry outbursts or aggressive behavior
• Overwhelming guilt or shame
PTSD + Substance or Alcohol Abuse = Dual Diagnosis
Dual diagnosis refers to a mental disorder (PTSD, anxiety, depression, etc) existing at the same time with substance abuse or alcohol abuse.
PTSD is an established risk factor for developing a substance abuse disorder. Many individuals with severe, mild, or even sub-clinical mental disorders may use drugs as a form of self-medication to alleviate the unpleasant symptoms of the mental disorder.
When an individual develops a mental illness, associated changes in brain activity increase the vulnerability for substance and alcohol abuse. Mental illness (including anxiety and PTSD) causes changes in the brain that enhance the rewarding effects of drugs and alcohol. In addition, awareness of the negative effects are reduced.
Although some drugs may temporarily reduce symptoms of a mental illness, substance abuse ultimately makes mental disorder symptoms worse.
PTSD and Military Veterans
Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), sometimes known as shell shock or combat stress, occurs after experiencing severe trauma or a life-threatening event. It’s normal for the mind and body to be in shock after experiencing a trauma. But this normal response becomes PTSD when your nervous system gets “stuck.”
Your nervous system has two automatic or reflexive ways of responding to stressful events:
Mobilization, or fight-or-flight, occurs when you need to defend yourself or survive the danger of a combat situation. Your heart pounds faster, your blood pressure rises, and your muscles tighten, increasing your strength and reaction speed. Once the danger has passed, your nervous system calms your body, lowering your heart rate and blood pressure, and winding back down to its normal balance.
Immobilization occurs when you’ve experienced too much stress in a situation and even though the danger has passed, you find yourself “stuck.” Your nervous system is unable to return to its normal state of balance and you’re unable to move on from the event. This is PTSD.
Recovering from PTSD involves transitioning out of the mental and emotional war zone you’re still living in and helping your nervous system become “unstuck.”
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• Each patient is evaluated by New Start Recovery Solutions staff and receives a biopsychosocial assessment; and an individualized treatment plan.
• If you or your loved one is located in Silicon Valley, San Francisco, Bay Area, Walnut Creek, San Rafael, Sacramento, Fair Oaks, Roseville, Chico, Paradise, Redding, Martinez or other Northern California area – and are dealing with a drug abuse or an alcohol use disorder – welcome to evidence-based whole person addiction treatment at New Start Recovery Solutions.
• New Start Recovery Solutions is a VA Community Care Provider; in-network with TriWest.
• Our trauma-informed dual diagnosis treatment is effective for PTSD, depression, anxiety and more.
• Military and Veteran PTSD treatment programs.
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