What is Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder or PTSD?
Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder or PTSD is a kind of anxiety disorder that may develop after a person is involved in or watches a very, very frightening event. The person may be actually hurt in the event or only feel threatened with extreme harm. Sometimes, families and friends can develop PTSD when someone they love is badly hurt or in a very dangerous situation. PTSD is a serious condition that can interfere with a person’s work and family life.
A person with PTSD may have many kinds of problems including:
- Flashbacks or frightening memories that feel like the trauma is happening again
- Nightmares and trouble sleeping
- Avoiding anything that reminds them of the trauma
- Depression and sadness
- Headaches, stomachaches, dizziness, chest pain
- Worry and anxiety
- Difficulty concentrating
In PTSD, some or all of these symptoms happen almost every day for more than one month. PTSD usually starts within three months of a traumatic event, but it can also begin years after a trauma. Both adults and children can develop PTSD. About four percent of adults present with PTSD each year. People who have had past traumas in their lives, like childhood abuse, are more likely to present with PTSD when they are severely traumatized again.
What causes PTSD?
PTSD may develop after a traumatic event. The kinds of experiences that can cause PTSD include rape, mugging, physical and sexual abuse, fire, kidnapping, hurricanes, accidents or war. PTSD used to be called "shell shock" because soldiers returning from battle often experienced related symptoms. Research shows that terrifying experiences can cause changes in a person’s brain chemistry that may lead to PTSD symptoms.
How can PTSD be treated?
There are multiple effective treatments for PTSD. Several kinds of talking therapies help manage PTSD symptoms. There are also medications that can help. Getting counseling and talking about what has happened after a traumatic event can sometimes prevent PTSD from developing.
In addition, Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR) is an innovative clinical treatment used to alleviate PTSD symptoms. MHA of Westchester has clinicians who are trained and certified in EMDR.
The sections below provide links to web sites that give additional information about Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder as well as a link to Westchester County Mental Health Services, a database of local service providers including those who provide treatment for Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder.
Additional Information About PTSD
National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH)
NIMH is an agency of the United States government that does research on mental illnesses. This site has simple, easy-to-read information on PTSD, its causes, symptoms and effective treatments.
National Mental Health Association (NMHA)
NMHA is a national organization dedicated to promoting mental health through education and advocacy. This site has clear, detailed information on PTSD, including research on its causes.
Mental Health: A Report of the Surgeon General
This is the first report on mental health from the United States Surgeon General. It was issued in December 1999. This site provides information from research studies on how stressful events affect people and effective treatments for such persons.
National Center for Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder
Founded in 1989, the National Center for Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder is a clearinghouse for all information and activities related to PTSD and is widely sought out for its research, education and consultation expertise. The site contains facts about PTSD as well as information about research and treatment.
Information courtesy of the MHA of Westchester County