At San Jose Behavioral Health, we believe education is an important first step in the effort to manage PTSD. Understanding the signs, symptoms, and effects of PTSD can help you get the right type and level of care for yourself or a loved one.
Learn About PTSD
Posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is a serious mental health condition that could happen to anyone. PTSD may begin months after a traumatic incident has occurred and it is a natural response to an unnatural and stressful condition. PTSD may occur if a person experiences one trauma, repeated traumas, or even witnesses or hears about the severe traumas of others.
One key feature of this disorder is the persistent memories of the trauma where the emotions and anguish felt during the traumatic event can resurface suddenly. Common experiences among PTSD survivors include flashbacks or nightmares.
Individuals who have this condition often avoid situations, places, or people that would remind them of the traumatic event. There can be significant changes in an individual’s behavior, attitude, mood, and perception. In some cases, individuals who struggle with PTSD may have difficulty relaxing or sleeping and are easily irritated or angered. They also may find it difficult to feel happy or comfortable.
Posttraumatic stress disorder requires support and therapy. Inpatient treatment is a great way to benefit from a number of therapies and services that can heal PTSD. This condition is treatable, and with proper care, an individual can move on to a happier life.
In a given year, an estimated 3.5% of U.S. citizens struggle with posttraumatic stress disorder while 8.7% of individuals will experience PTSD at some point in their lives. Risks can be higher with individuals whose professions expose them to harm, such as police, military, and firefighters. However, the highest PTSD rates (about 33% to 50%) come from rape survivors, individuals who joined the military, and those who survived genocide or captivity.
Causes and Risk Factors of PTSD
Certain risk factors can determine if an individual who experiences a traumatic event is likely to develop posttraumatic stress disorder. These risk factors include:
Genetic factors: Genetic causes are linked to PTSD only if an individual has a family history of mental health disorders. Although PTSD is caused by traumatic experiences, a person’s genetics can affect whether he or she develops PTSD as a result of the traumatic experience.
Environmental factors: By definition, an environmental factor – a traumatic experience – is the catalyst for an individual to develop PTSD. Environmental influences such as poverty, ongoing chaos, and family or community violence can contribute to these risks.
Other Risk Factors:
- Women report more symptoms of PTSD than men
- Past experience or exposure to violence
- Traumatic life and family events
- Lack of support system
- Traumatic experiences during childhood
- Experiencing racism or generational trauma
- Unstable mental health
- Inability to cope with emotional or traumatic events
- History or experience of physical abuse
Signs and Symptoms of PTSD
Traumatic events and resulting PTSD can have different effects on each individual, though common signs and symptoms of PTSD may include:
- Having memories or flashbacks that feel as though the individual is reliving the traumatic experience
- Constant dreams of traumatic events
- Distress and intense reactions to incidents that remind that person of a traumatic event
- Experiencing dissociation and feeling detached
- Wanting to avoid people, places, and situations that can bring up reminders of the traumatic incident even if these people, places, and situations were once important to that individual
- Wanting to avoid emotions, memories, or thoughts that can cause distress or remind individuals of a traumatic experience
- Constant irritability
- Easily angered
- Having difficulty concentrating
- Struggling with sleeping habits
- Being jittery and having an overactive response when startled
Mood Change Symptoms
- Self-blame and negative thoughts about the traumatic events
- Feeling guilty, afraid, and easily angered
- Negativity towards oneself, others, and society
- Being withdrawn and detached from others
- Having difficulty feeling happy
- Inability to recall the specifics of traumatic events
- Lack of pleasure from previously enjoyable activities
Effects of PTSD
If a person with posttraumatic stress disorder is not given help and support, the following consequences may ensue:
- Inability to perform at work
- Loss of job and financial stability
- Loss of home
- Relationship conflicts
- Family conflicts
- Recklessness which can lead to injuries
- Development of other mental health disorders
- Suicidal ideation
- Attempted or completed suicide
PTSD can lead to a higher risk of other mental health disorders such as:
- Anxiety disorders
- Bipolar disorder
- Depressive disorders
- Major neurocognitive disorder
- Substance use disorders