What is post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)?

Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is a debilitating mental disorder that sometimes follows when a person has directly experienced or witnessed an extremely traumatic, tragic, or terrifying event. People with PTSD usually have persistent frightening thoughts and memories of their ordeal and feel emotionally numb, especially with people they were once close to.

Ordinary events can serve as reminders of the trauma and trigger flashbacks or intrusive images. A flashback may make the person lose touch with reality and reenact the event for a period of seconds or hours, or very rarely, days. A person having a flashback, which can come in the form of images, sounds, smells, or feelings, usually believes that the traumatic event is happening all over again.

How do I know if I have PTSD?

Symptoms associated with reliving the traumatic event:

  • Having bad dreams, or distressing memories about the event
  • Behaving or feeling as if the event were actually happening all over again (known as flashbacks)
  • Dissociative reactions or loss of awareness of present surroundings
  • Having a lot of emotional feelings when reminded of the event
  • Having a lot of physical sensations when reminded of the event (heart pounds or misses a beat, sweating, difficulty breathing, feeling faint, feeling a loss of control)

Symptoms related to avoidance of reminders of the traumatic event:

  • Avoiding thoughts, conversations, or feelings about the event
  • Avoiding people, activities, or places associated with the event

Symptoms related to negative changes in thought or mood:

  • Having difficulty remembering an important part of the original trauma
  • Feeling numb or detached from things
  • Lack of interest in social activities
  • Inability to experience positive moods
  • Pessimism about the future

Arousal and reactivity symptoms:

  • Sleeping Difficulties including trouble falling or staying asleep
  • Irritability and outbursts of anger
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Feeling easily startled

Other symptoms related to depersonalization (feeling like an observer to one's body and thoughts/feelings) or derealization (experiencing unreality of surroundings) may also exist for some individuals.

How Do I Start Treatment?

Meeting with a clinician one-on-one for a first visit is the first step in addressing your symptoms. Based on this assessment, your therapist can help you decide on the best approach to begin to work on your symptoms. Starting treatment is a big step, and we’re here to help. Our clinicians are here to answer any questions you may have, and to help you through the process of getting started. To request information or to get started with a counselor, fill out our contact us form and we will be in touch.