Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is a mental illness that some people develop in response to trauma. It’s defined by the length of time people experience their symptoms, and the symptoms themselves. For someone to be diagnosed with PTSD, they must have experienced symptoms for at least a month.

PTSD

People with PTSD have disturbing feelings and symptoms relating to the trauma they experienced. These symptoms linger long after the trauma is over. There are four different categories of PTSD symptoms:

  1. Intrusive thoughts: Memories, dreams or flashbacks of the traumatic event. For some people, the flashbacks feel so real that they relive the event.
  2. Avoidant behavior: Someone with PTSD may avoid any place, person, object or activity that could remind them of the trauma. They might also avoid talking about it, or their feelings about it.
  3. Negative thoughts and feelings: These can include thoughts and feelings about themselves or about the trauma. They might feel ongoing fear, anger, or guilt, or feel that they can’t trust anyone.
  4. Arousal and reactive symptoms: These are symptoms such as hypervigilance, insomnia, anxiety and aggressive behavior.

Complex PTSD

The symptoms of complex PTSD are very similar to those of PTSD. The main difference in terms of symptoms is that in complex PTSD, the symptoms last longer and may be more severe.

Complex PTSD may be diagnosed in someone who has experienced ongoing trauma. This can include:

  • Neglect or abuse during childhood
  • Domestic abuse, including physical and/or psychological abuse
  • Being a prisoner of war, or living in an area that is affected by war

This diagnosis is usually made due to the ongoing nature of the trauma and the fact that treatment and recovery may be more complicated.

PTSD With Co-Occurring Disorders

Trauma and PTSD often contribute to behavioral health issues like:

People turn to this kind of behavior as a means of coping with the trauma and their symptoms of PTSD. This combination of mental health issues or mental health and substance abuse issues makes it more difficult to address trauma because self-medicating buries the emotional pain.

Research shows a dual diagnosis of PTSD and substance abuse is particularly challenging to treat. This combination is linked to:

  • High rates of suicide attempts
  • Increased risk of violent tendencies
  • Legal problems
  • Poor social functioning
  • Chronic physical health problems

People with PTSD and co-occurring drug or alcohol abuse sometimes have trouble taking medication consistently. They also find it harder to stick with their treatment program. These challenges mean some people don’t respond as well to treatment as people with either PTSD or alcoholism alone.

This doesn’t mean there’s no hope for people with PTSD and substance abuse problems. There’s no doubt that recovery is tough—but being aware of potential problems prepares you to tackle them head-on if they arise.

Acute Stress Disorder

Acute stress disorder develops in response to a traumatic event. The symptoms of acute stress disorder are very similar to those of PTSD. The main difference is the time frame in which the symptoms occur.

In acute stress disorder, symptoms develop between 3 days and 1 month after the triggering event. Between 13% and 21% of car-accident survivors develop acute stress disorder. Between 20% and 50% of people who survive assault, rape or mass shootings develop the disorder.

Around half of people with acute stress disorder later develop PTSD.

Treatment for PTSD

PTSD treatment focuses on reducing the symptoms of the illness and helping you cope with and resolve the trauma you experienced. Treatment typically includes psychotherapy, medication or a combination of both.

For instance, anti-depressant medications are often prescribed to control anxiety. Other medications may be prescribed to reduce nightmares or stabilize your mood.

Types of therapy for PTSD treatment include:

  • Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) – This helps you recognize destructive or negative thought patterns and change or replace them.
  • Prolonged exposure therapy – You relive the traumatic experience in a safe environment. This helps you confront your fears and deal with the trauma.
  • Eye movement desensitization and reprocessing (EMDR) – This helps you identify distressing memories and process them in a healthier, more accurate way.
  • Group therapy – You’re given a safe place to talk with other people who have experienced trauma.

Inpatient Treatment

Chronic trauma is associated with a higher risk of problems like drug abuse and addiction, eating disorders and other kinds of self-destructive behavior. Inpatient treatment can be helpful for people with these kinds of problems.

Residential treatment for PTSD provides a safe place to address the reasons behind chronic trauma. It’s also an opportunity to try different types of therapy that are designed to address trauma. Inpatient plans usually include a mix of therapies to treat PTSD:

  • Traditional therapy types (CBT, EMDR, talk therapy and group therapy) and
  • Alternative therapies, such as mindfulness and meditation.

Recovery from PTSD Is Possible

PTSD is a hard illness to live with. It can affect every aspect of your life, and your relationships too. Recovery is often a gradual, long-term process, but it is possible. Over time, therapy and medication can help you manage your symptoms. They become less intense and intrusive, and you can live life free of your trauma.

If you’re interested in learning more about treatment options for PTSD, contact The Ranch at 18448767680. We have treatment centers located in beautiful Tennessee and Pennsylvania.

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Krisi Herron

Medically Reviewed by

Krisi Herron, LCDC

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