The exact cause of PTSD is unknown. PTSD is triggered by exposure to a traumatic event. Situations in which a person feels intense fear, helplessness, or horror are considered traumatic. PTSD has been reported in people who experienced:
- Physical assault
- Natural disaster (eg, earthquake, hurricane, fire)
- Sexual abuse
- Motor vehicle accidents
- Animal attack
Researchers are studying how problems with synapses in the brain may be linked to PTSD.
The doctor will ask you about your symptoms and medical history. This may be done by using a structured interview and/or a questionnaire. You will also likely be given a psychological assessment. PTSD will be diagnosed if you have:
- Symptoms of PTSD, which have lasted for more than one month
- Both emotional distress and disturbed functioning (eg, problems at school, work, or home) due to the symptoms
PTSD is categorized according to when symptoms occur and how long they last. There are three types of PTSD:
- Acute—symptoms last between 1-3 months after the event
- Chronic—symptoms last more than three months after the event
- Delayed onset—symptoms do not appear until at least six months after the event
There are many treatments available to help you. Treatment will not only focus on treating PTSD, but will also focus on any other conditions you have (eg, depression, alcohol abuse, drug abuse).
Cognitive-behavior therapy (CBT)
involves changing your thinking patterns to improve symptoms. Your therapist may teach you techniques to manage anxiety, stress, and anger.
Managing Mental Health Concerns
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In exposure therapy, the therapist brings back the imagery of the event in a safe place. You are gradually guided through a visualization. Re-experiencing the trauma in a controlled environment can help you let go of fear and gain control over anxiety.
Meeting in a
with other survivors of trauma can be an effective and powerful form of therapy for people with PTSD.
Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR)
During this type of therapy, you are asked to talk about the traumatic event, including your memories, feelings, and sensations. While talking, the therapist has you move your eyes side-to-side following hand movements. EMDR combines techniques from both CBT and exposure therapy. The goal is to allow the mind to process the trauma and to develop more positive beliefs about yourself.
Medicine may help with anxiety, depression, and
. Usually, antidepressants known as
selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors
(SSRIs) are prescribed.
The United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has approved these medicines to treat PTSD:
Your doctor may try these or other psychiatric medicines to help control your symptoms.