After a traumatic experience, it’s normal to feel frightened, sad, anxious, and disconnected. But if the upset doesn’t fade, you may be suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). PTSD can develop following any event that makes you fear for your safety. Most people associate PTSD with rape or battle-scarred soldiers—and military combat is the most common cause in men. But any event, or series of events, that overwhelms you with feelings of hopelessness and helplessness and leaves you emotionally shattered, can trigger PTSD—especially if the event feels unpredictable and uncontrollable.
PTSD can affect people who personally experience the traumatic event, those who witness the event, or those who pick up the pieces afterwards, such as emergency workers and law enforcement officers. PTSD can also result from surgery performed on children too young to fully understand what’s happening to them. Whatever the cause for your PTSD, with treatment and support, you can learn to manage your symptoms, reduce painful memories, and move past the trauma.
Symptoms of PTSD most often begin within three months of the event. In some cases, however, they do not begin until years later. The severity and duration of the illness vary. Some people recover within six months, while others suffer much longer. To be diagnosed with PTSD, an adult must have all of the following for at least 1 month:
- At least one re-experiencing symptom
- At least one avoidance symptom
- At least two arousal and reactivity symptoms
- At least two cognition and mood symptoms
Note: If you have suicidal thoughts
If you or someone you know has suicidal thoughts, get help right away
People who live with post-traumatic stress disorder may feel like they are fighting an everyday battle with their memories. It is not an easy condition to live with, as a person works through their treatment plan with mental health professionals.
Management of PTSD is best done with a comprehensive approach. Active treatment through psychotherapy and medication (if needed) can be supplemented by support groups and community support. If a person with PTSD has a partner, couples counseling may benefit the relationship, so their partner can better understand and learn how to cope with the symptoms associated with this condition.