What is Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)?

Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is a condition where a person feels stress, anxiety, and fear upon recalling a terrible and horrifying event in the past. People who have this condition have mostly experienced scary and unforgettable events in the past. These people can be rape victims, hostages, survivors (either of accidents or terrorist attacks), and military personnel. Likewise, there are six categories of this mental condition namely normal stress response, acute stress disorder, uncomplicated PTSD, comorbid PTSD, and complex PTSD.

What is the Difference Between Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder and Panic Disorder?

There is a very fine line when it comes to distinguishing these two conditions from each other. This difficulty is attributed to the great chance of having panic disorder as a co-occurring disorder for PTSD.

The main difference lies in the trigger of their respective symptoms. PTSD symptoms are triggered by events, situations, objects or words which are relevant to the traumatic experience. For instance, a survivor from a terror attack, upon seeing news about violence and terrorism will experience the symptoms of the mental disorder. These triggers can be several things such as color, shape, words, or objects as long as relevant to the traumatic experience.

In contrast, symptoms of panic disorders can come out of the blue without any distinct triggers. This mental disorder is more abstract and unpredictable compared to PTSD. People with this condition experience the relentless occurrence of panic attacks even without the presence of imminent danger.

How Common is Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder in the United States?

This mental disorder is gaining prevalence in the United States and is greatly affecting the well-being and productivity of the patients. Most of the patients affected by this condition are adults and military personnel. Below are some important statistical data to describe its prevalence in the United States.

PTSD Statistics in the United States:

  • PTSD patients have the highest usage of healthcare service
  • Around half of the total outpatient population are diagnosed with PTSD
  • In the military service, the population of soldiers diagnosed with this disorder increased by 50 percent
  • Estimated 70 percent of adults have at least one traumatic event experienced in their lives wherein 20 percent of it develops to a PTSD
  • Approximately, 8 percent of the general population develops this mental disorder anytime
  • Women are twice more prone to acquiring this mental disorder than men. It is estimated that 1 out of 9 women develops this condition.

What are the Symptoms of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder?

The manifestation of the symptoms of this mental disorder can be seen within a month or a year after the traumatic experience. These symptoms can be classified into four groups: unwanted memories, avoidance, disruptive state of mind and feeling, and unhealthy emotion and bodily responses.

Unwanted memories

  • The person feels weary or uncomfortable upon seeing objects or situations which can be associated with the horrible past experience
  • Seeing glimpse of memories about the horrible experience
  • Having unpleasant dreams regarding the horrible past experience
  • The person is unable to control recalling memories about the horrible experience

Avoidance

  • Staying away from people, situations, or places which reminds the person of the event that has caused the trauma
  • The strong effort not to think or talk about the horrible experience

Disruptive state of mind and feeling

  • Feeling apathetic
  • The absence of interest in things and life
  • Gradual isolation of oneself from loved ones
  • Difficulty to maintain a healthy relationship
  • Selective memory loss
  • Suicidal and hostile behavior towards others and self

Unhealthy emotion and bodily responses

  • An intense feeling of guilt and shame
  • Uncontrolled temper
  • Difficulty to focus and sleep
  • Unhealthy behavior which can harm oneself
  • Easily startled
  • Hallucinating of being in a dangerous situation and need to keep on guard always

What are Some Risk and Resilience Factors for Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder?

A person with this mental condition must be mindful enough for the things which can either worsen or alleviate one’s mental status. Risk factors are those things which can worsen the disorder while resilience factors alleviate the condition. To increase awareness, here are some of the common risk and resilience factors for this disorder.

Risk Factors

  • History of substance use disorder and alcoholism
  • Other negative stress from work, family, and friends
  • The absence of social support
  • The extreme feeling of hopelessness and being alone
  • Past experience of abuse or harassment during childhood
  • Witnessing other people experience violence and abuse
  • Flashback of traumatic memories
  • Feeling physical pain

Resilience Factors

  • Open and healthy communication with family and loved ones
  • Effective and positive management of fear
  • Learning new habits as a means of coping with the disorder
  • Joining support groups

What are Some Treatments and Therapies for Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder?

In order to have a fast recovery, a combination of medications and therapies are available to patients. Medications aim to cure the biological aspect of the disorder while the therapies aim to supplement and correct the patient’s behavior and thinking.

Most medications prescribed to patients with this condition have antidepressant effects. Below are some of the common medications given to people with PTSD:

Medications given to minimize physical symptoms include:

Aside from these medications, appropriate therapies must be done in order to correct the behavior and thinking capacity of the patient. Here are some of the common therapies applied to this mental disorder.


Cognitive Restructuring

In this intervention, the therapist helps the patient take a more realistic perspective of the traumatic event. There are instances where the patient might have misinterpreted the event and blames oneself. This feeling of shame and guilt must be removed and replaced with positive emotions.

Exposure Therapy

This intervention calls for the confrontation of the traumatic event instead of avoiding it. The exposure is a gradual process done through imagination, writing, or going to the place of the event. The therapist guides the patient in controlling one’s fear while slowly facing the traumatic experience.

Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR)

This is a combination of the guided eye movement and exposure therapy. While the traumatic event is slowly exposed to the patient, the therapist observes and guides the patient’s eye movement as it is a good measure of one’s reaction to a stimulus.