Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder: PTSD Not just war-related

While there are a number of risk factors for Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), there is one common thread for all those who suffer from it: real trauma. While not everyone who lives through a traumatic situation develops PTSD, our understanding of PTSD has evolved over the last few decades – and so has our understanding of the impact different kinds of trauma can have on our minds and bodies.

Symptoms of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, flashbacks, exhaustion, and more extreme effects, have shown up throughout history and are often connected with war and conflict. Our modern understanding of PTSD was formed in the 1970s after the Vietnam War; soldiers continued to experience life-impacting effects long after they came home.

However, it’s important to recognize that it can be caused by other significant events, too. PTSD has been diagnosed in people who have survived natural disasters, acts of violence like shootings or rape, childhood neglect or physical abuse, and in some cases being threatened with violence.

Is it Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder?

There are six criteria for diagnosing PTSD:

  • Exposure to a traumatic event.

“This must have involved both (a) loss of “physical integrity”, or risk of serious injury or death, to self or others, and (b) a response to the event that involved intense fear, horror or helplessness (or in children, the response must involve disorganized or agitated behavior).”

  • Persistent re-experiencing.
  • Persistent avoidance and emotional numbing.
  • Persistent symptoms of increased arousal not present before.

“These are all physiological response issues, such as difficulty falling or staying asleep, or problems with anger, concentration, or hypervigilance.”

  • Duration of symptoms for more than a month.
  • Significant impairment.

If the other criteria are met but the symptoms haven’t been around for more than a month, a diagnosis of acute stress reaction – a variation of PTSD – might be given.

Getting help

If someone is experiencing symptoms of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, treatment can only begin once he or she has been removed from the crisis situation.  This includes ongoing trauma, like ongoing domestic or community abuse, but can also refer to other conditions – treatment for drug or alcohol use, for example.

Once in a safe environment, a detailed evaluation will be conducted and a treatment plan created that meets the needs of that individual. Treatments can include cognitive-behavioral therapy, coping strategies, and medication.

Finding more information

Treatment for someone with PTSD includes education for their family and loved ones. As explained in our information about PTSD: “ Understanding that PTSD is a medically-recognized anxiety disorder that occurs in normal individuals under extremely stressful conditions is essential for effective treatment.

For more information please contact us. You can also find easy-to-understand information about PTSD from the American National Institute of Mental Health.