Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is an anxiety disorder that often follows a traumatic event involving actual or threatened death, serious injury or threat to the physical integrity of oneself or others. PTSD is a condition that affects people of all ages. Going through trauma is not rare. About 6 of every 10 men (or 60%) and 5 of every 10 women (or 50%) experience at least one trauma in their lives. Of those who experience trauma, most do not develop PTSD – about 7% of people who are exposed to trauma develop PTSD. According to the National Center for Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, PTSD is a relatively common condition, affecting 10% of women and 4% of men at some point in their lives. About 8 million adults have PTSD during a given year.
You don't have to experience a specific type of trauma to develop PTSD. Any experience that threatens your life can cause PTSD. Types of traumatic events that can cause PTSD include:
Symptoms of PTSD
There are 4 main types of PTSD symptoms. It is important to note that they may not be exactly the same for everyone – individuals experience symptoms in their own way.
- Psychologically reliving the event
- Persistent avoidance of things that remind you of the event
- Increased negative thoughts and feelings
- Feeling on edge
It is also common for people with PTSD to deal with their trauma in unhealthy ways by smoking and abusing drugs and alcohol. Many people who have PTSD also have other mental health problems - such as depression, anxiety or suicidal thoughts. It is also common to have problems at work, in relationships, or with your physical health.
After a traumatic event, it is normal to feel, think and act differently - but most people tend to feel better after a few weeks or months. If your symptoms do not improve after a few months, you may have PTSD. For others, symptoms may start a few months after the event, or they may come and go over time.
When PTSD is left untreated, it usually doesn't get better - and often gets even worse. There are lots of different treatment options available, as both trauma-focused psychotherapies and medication are proven to effectively treat PTSD.
Trauma-focused therapies are the most highly recommended treatments for PTSD and they focus on the memory of the traumatic event or its meaning. The following sections will go into detail about the types of treatments available.
Cognitive Processing Therapy
Cognitive Processing Therapy (CPT) helps you to identify and change the negative thoughts from your trauma. Your therapist will encourage you to challenge these negative thoughts, which will help you to think about your trauma in a way that is less upsetting. Changing how you think about your trauma can help change how you feel. During CPT you will often have to talk about the traumatic event with your therapist and how your thoughts related to it have affected your life. Then you will write in detail about what happened - this process helps examine how you think about your trauma and figure out new ways to live with it.
Prolonged Exposure Therapy
Prolonged Exposure Therapy (PE) helps you to confront things that remind you of the traumatic event. It is common for people with PTSD to try to avoid things that remind them of the trauma. During PE sessions, your therapist will teach you breathing techniques to ease your anxiety when you think about the traumatic event. Your therapist will ask you to talk about your trauma over and over. This will help you to gain more control over your thoughts and feelings related to the trauma. Later, you will make a list of all the things you have been avoiding and learn how to face them, one by one.
Eye Movement Desensitization & Reprocessing
Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR) can help you to process your upsetting memories, thoughts and feelings. During EMDR you will focus on specific sounds or movements while you either talk about or concentrate on the trauma. This helps your brain to work through the traumatic memories and can gradually change how you react to memories of your trauma.
When you have PTSD, your brain may process things differently, partly because of the imbalance of chemicals in your brain. Those with PTSD have an easily triggered "fight or flight" response, which can make you more jumpy and on-edge. Medications such as SSRIs (selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors) and SNIRs (selective norepinephrine reuptake inhibitors) can help raise the level of these chemicals in your brain. Effective SSRIs for PTSD include sertraline, paroxetine, and fluoxetine. Venlafaxine is an SNRI that can be effective. It is important to note that only therapy can treat the underlying cause of your symptoms.
How we can help
PTSD can disrupt your whole life - your job, relationships, health and ability to take part in everyday activities. It is important to contact a qualified attorney with experience in PTSD claims in order to make sure you get the compensation you deserve. Our Los Angeles based law firm invites you to contact us for a free, confidential, no-obligation consultation to review your case!