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PTSD: What you need to know

The development of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) can occur when someone has been exposed to a stressful experience that has caused them to feel afraid, shocked, or helpless. It can have long-term consequences, such as flashbacks, problems sleeping, and anxiety, among other things.

War, crimes, fires, accidents, the death of a loved one, and various forms of abuse are examples of experiences that might cause post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) to develop in some people. Even after the threat has passed, thoughts and memories continue to resurface.

Between 7 and 8% of the population is considered to be afflicted by this disease, with women being more susceptible than men to contracting it.

Instead of feeling better as time passes, the individual may experience an increase in anxiety and worry as a result of the situation. Although post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) can cause significant disruption in a person’s life for years, treatment can help them recover.

Symptoms and diagnosis of (PTSD)

A lady having PTSD
PTSD is a condition that can develop as a result of a traumatic incident or encounter.

Symptoms normally appear within 3 months of an event, but they might appear at any time beyond that time.

In order to be diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), a person must meet the criteria outlined in the Fifth Edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5) published by the American Psychological Association (APA) (DSM-5).

The following are the requirements for the individual, according to these guidelines:

1. Having been exposed to death or imminent death, serious injury, or sexual violence, whether directly, through witnessing it, through witnessing it happening to a loved one, or through performing professional duties.

2. Experience the following for more than one month:

  • one or more intrusion symptoms
  • one or more avoidance symptoms
  • two or more symptoms that affect mood and thinking
  • two or more arousal and reactivity symptoms that began after the trauma

Examples of these four types of symptoms include the following:

Intrusion symptoms:

  • nightmares
  • flashbacks and a sensation that the event is happening again
  • fearful thoughts

Avoidance symptoms:

  • refusing to discuss the event
  • avoiding situations that remind the person of the event

Arousal and reactivity symptoms:

  • difficulty sleeping
  • irritability and angry outbursts
  • hypersensitivity to possible dangers
  • feeling tense and anxious

Symptoms that affect mood and thinking:

  • inability to remember some aspects of the event
  • feelings of guilt and blame
  • feeling detached and estranged from others and emotionally and mentally numbed
  • having a reduced interest in life
  • difficulty concentrating
  • mental health problems, such as depressionphobias, and anxiety

Furthermore, the symptoms must cause anxiety or difficulties dealing at work or in relationships, and they must not be caused by the use of medication or other substances, or by another medical condition, to qualify.

Physical symptoms

Physical symptoms may also be present, but they are not included in the DSM-5 criteria. They are as follows:

  • physical effects include sweating, shaking, headaches, dizziness, stomach problems, aches and pains, and chest pain
  • a weakened immune system can lead to more frequent infections
  • sleep disturbances can result in tiredness and other problems

Behavioral changes may occur over time that contribute to troubles at work as well as a breakdown in interpersonal connections. It is possible that the individual will begin to consume more alcohol than they have in the past, or that they will misuse narcotics or pharmaceuticals.

Children and adolescent

Among those aged 6 years and under, the following symptoms may manifest themselves:

  • bedwetting after learning to use the bathroom
  • inability to speak
  • acting out the event in play
  • being clingy with an adult

It is possible that the youngster may not have flashbacks or will not have difficulties recalling some aspects of the event between the ages of 5 and 12 years. They may, on the other hand, recall the events in a different order or believe that there was an indication that it was about to happen.

It’s also possible for them to act out the trauma or express it via games, photos, and storytelling. They may experience nightmares and become agitated.. They may find it difficult to attend to school, spend time with friends, or concentrate on their studies.

Children, particularly those above the age of eight, often exhibit reactions that are similar to those of adults.

Between the ages of 12 and 18, the individual may engage in disruptive or disrespectful behaviour, as well as impulsive or aggressive behaviour.

They may feel guilty for not acting in a more appropriate manner during the event, or they may seek retaliation or revenge.

Children who have been sexually abused are more prone to develop the following characteristics:

  • feel fear, sadness, anxiety, and isolation
  • have a low sense of self-worth
  • behave in an aggressive manner
  • display unusual sexual behavior
  • hurt themselves
  • misuse drugs or alcohol


A screening test to determine whether or not the individual has post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) may be administered as part of the diagnosis procedure.

This can take anywhere from 15 minutes to many one-hour sessions, depending on how much time you have available. If there are legal ramifications or if the outcome of a disability claim is at stake, a more in-depth evaluation may be required.

If the symptoms resolve after a few weeks, it is possible that the patient has acute stress disorder (ASD).

PTSD tends to last for a longer period of time, and the symptoms are more severe, and they may not manifest themselves until some time after the traumatic event.

Many patients recover within 6 months, however other people continue to have symptoms for several years after they have recovered.


conflict zones
Some persons who return from war zones suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

PTSD can develop after a traumatic event.

Examples include:

  • military confrontation
  • natural disasters
  • serious accidents
  • terrorist attacks
  • loss of a loved one, whether or not this involved violence
  • rape or other types of abuse
  • personal assault
  • being a victim of crime
  • receiving a life-threatening diagnosis

PTSD can develop as a result of any experience that causes fear, shock, terror, or a sense of powerlessness.

Factors that increase risk

It is still unclear why some people get post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) while others do not. The following risk factors, on the other hand, may enhance the likelihood of suffering symptoms:

  • having additional problems after an event, for example, losing a loved one and losing a job
  • lacking social support after an event
  • having a history of mental health problems or substance use
  • past experience of abuse, for example, during childhood
  • having poor physical health before or as a result of an event

Some physical and genetic variables may be involved in the development of this condition. These factors may have an impact on the likelihood of developing anxiety, depression, or post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

The structure of the brain: When compared to healthy individuals, brain scans have revealed that patients suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) have a distinct appearance in the hippocampus. The hippocampus is involved in the processing of emotions and memories, and it may have an impact on the likelihood of experiencing flashbacks.

Response to a stressful situation: People suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) tend to have higher levels of chemicals that are normally generated in a fight-or-flight situation.

Gender: This could have an impact. According to research, while men are more likely than women to be victims of violence, women are more likely than men to suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

What reduces the risk?

Scientists are investigating elements that may help patients recover from or avoid post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) more efficiently.

These are some examples:

  • having or seeking out support from others
  • having or developing coping strategies
  • the person’s ability to feel good about how they act when faced with difficulty

When to see a doctor

Many people have symptoms following a traumatic event, such as sobbing, anxiety, and difficulty concentrating, but this is not always a sign of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) or other mental health problems.

Treatment with a skilled practitioner as soon as the symptoms appear can help to avoid them from becoming worse.

This should be taken into consideration if the following conditions are met:

  • symptoms persist for more than a month
  • symptoms are severe enough to prevent the person returning to normal life
  • the person considers harming themselves


Psychotherapy and counselling, as well as medicine, or a combination of the two are commonly used in treatment.

Options for psychotherapy will be specifically adapted to the needs of those dealing with trauma.

They are as follows:

Cognitive processing therapy (CPT): The process is known as cognitive restructuring, and it involves the individual learning how to think about things in a different manner. Using mental images to help them move through the trauma and acquire control over their fear and distress may be beneficial for them in the long run.

Exposure therapy: Talking about the event over and over again or confronting the source of the fear in a secure and controlled atmosphere may help the person feel more in control of their thoughts and feelings. It has, however, been called into question as to its efficacy, and it must be used with caution, else there is a chance of the symptoms intensifying.


Some drugs can be used to alleviate the symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs), such as paroxetine, are widely used to treat depression and anxiety. SSRIs are also effective in the treatment of depression, anxiety, and sleep disturbances, all of which are symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). There have been some indications that antidepressant medicines can raise the risk of suicide in people under the age of 24 if they are using them.

Benzodiazepines are sometimes prescribed to address symptoms such as irritability, sleeplessness, and anxiety. The National Center for PTSD, on the other hand, does not suggest them because they do not cure the underlying symptoms and can develop to reliance.

Experimental therapies

However, more evidence is needed to validate the safety and effectiveness of the following medicines, according to the findings of recent research.

Eye movement desensitisation and reprocessing (EMDR). People suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) may find that recalling the event while making a specific type of side-to-side eye movement will assist reduce their discomfort levels. This enables the individual to experience more pleasant feelings, behaviours, and ideas as a result.

MDMA. People may be able to deal with their memories more effectively if they had access to the prescription equivalent of the recreational drug ecstasy, which promotes a sense of safety in the process. This is an alternative that scientists are currently investigating.

Cortisone hormone therapy. One study found that high-dose cortisol-based therapy could help minimise the chance of developing post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) if administered immediately after a traumatic event occurs.

Computer games. According to a study released in 2017, playing specific computer games has been related to less symptoms in some veterans suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). The researchers, on the other hand, do not advocate that computer games be used in place of traditional therapy.

Self-help tips

Active coping is a critical component of the recovery process. An individual can accept the consequences of an event they have encountered and take steps to improve their condition as a result of this process.

The following can assist you in accomplishing your goal:

  • learning about PTSD and understanding that an ongoing response is normal and that recovery takes time
  • accepting that healing does not necessarily mean forgetting, but gradually feeling less bothered by the symptoms and having confidence in the ability to cope with the bad memories

Other things that can help include:

  • finding someone to confide in
  • spending time with other people who know what has happened
  • letting people know what might trigger symptoms
  • breaking down tasks into smaller parts, to make them easier to prioritize and complete
  • doing some physical exercise, such as swimming, walking, or yoga
  • practicing relaxation, breathing, or meditation techniques
  • listening to quiet music or spending time in nature
  • understanding that it will take time for symptoms to go away
  • accepting that PTSD is not a sign of weakness but can happen to anyone
  • participating in enjoyable activities that can provide distraction

There are a variety of helplines and other resources available for persons who are experiencing or who may be experiencing the symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

Here are some numbers that may be useful:

  • National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: 1-800-273-TALK
  • National Domestic Violence/Child Abuse/Sexual Abuse: 1-800-799-SAFE
  • National Youth Crisis Hotline: 800-442-HOPE

If you are looking for a therapist, be certain that you pick someone who is qualified and knowledgeable in the field of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). The Sidran Institute, a non-profit organisation that gives assistance to those who have experienced traumatic situations, offers some suggestions on how to choose a therapist who is a good fit for you.


PTSD can lead to some complications.

These include:

  • difficulty with work or relationships
  • a higher risk of heart problems
  • a greater chance of chronic disease
  • a possibility of changes that affect the brain, including higher levels of the stress hormone cortisol and a decrease in the size of the hippocampus – a brain structure important in memory processing and emotion

People who suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) are more likely to have additional health problems, such as depression, anxiety, personality disorder, or substance abuse, such as alcohol or drugs.

Preventive tips

Workers in occupations where traumatic events are likely to occur, such as the military and emergency services, may be offered training or counselling to assist them in coping with or reducing the risk of developing post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

After specific occurrences in the emergency medical services (EMS), a type of debriefing known as critical incident stress management (CISM) is conducted in an attempt to reduce the likelihood of stress and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) developing.

However, the effectiveness of this has been called into question, and some studies have suggested that it may even be harmful, as it may interfere with the natural recovery process by forcing people to confront memories and emotions before they are ready to do so, for example, by forcing them to confront memories and emotions before they are ready to do so.



Obianuju Chukwu

She has a degree in pharmacy and has worked in the field as a pharmacist in a hospital. Teaching, blogging, and producing scientific articles are some of her interests. She enjoys writing on various topics relating to health and medicine, including health and beauty-related natural treatments, the nutritional worth of various foods, and mental wellness.