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Articles of Interest

Post Traumatic Stress Disorder: Your Questions Answered

By Amie Allanson-Dundon, MS, LPC, CAADC, CCDP-D, CFAS, CCTP, Network Director, Clinical Therapy Services

What is Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)?
Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder is a mental health reaction to a significant traumatic event. It may develop suddenly, present slowly over time, or even start long after the event in some individuals. Typically, it occurs shortly after or within the first several months of the traumatic event.

What causes PTSD?
PTSD develops in individuals who have had a significant traumatic or life-threatening event happen to them or someone close to them or who are closely affected by something that has happened in society. What sets PTSD apart from a normal stress reaction is the severity, type, and duration of symptoms. Immediately after a traumatic event, most people develop some symptoms related to PTSD. However, these symptoms often resolve on their own.

What are the symptoms of PTSD?
Symptoms vary from person to person but will often include nightmares or severe moments where one feels they are reliving an aspect of the trauma. People may also avoid reminders of the event because these things trigger disturbing recollections of the trauma, cause high anxiety and emotional responses, or produce physical symptoms such as tremors, racing heart, and sweating. People may experience depression, irritability, difficulty relating with others, sleep disturbances, and many other symptoms as well.

Who gets PTSD?
While there are some factors that can help predict who may develop PTSD, PTSD is not something that can be easily predicted and can happen to anyone.

Did I do something wrong to develop PTSD?
No. It is hard to predict who will develop PTSD and is not something that is a result of conscious choices made by an individual. Thus, it is not something that develops because an individual did something wrong in the process before, during, or after the traumatic event. Unfortunately, it is not that simple and cannot be guarded against in this way. Self-blame is counterproductive and unrealistic.

I had a positive PTSD screen. What does that mean?
While having a positive PTSD screen may mean you have developed PTSD, it is important to talk to a mental health specialist before the diagnosis can be made. Together, you and that specialist will explore your symptoms and your history to best determine whether you have developed PTSD.

Can PTSD be treated?
Yes, PTSD is treated in a variety of ways. Some people do not need treatment while others benefit from individual or group therapy. Medications are also very effective when appropriate for the individual and should be discussed with a psychiatrist.

Can PTSD be cured?
The course of PTSD varies from individual to individual. PTSD does resolve in some individuals while others may have the symptoms of PTSD indefinitely. Those that do have ongoing PTSD symptoms, however, can live perfectly normal lives if symptoms are well-controlled through treatment and self-awareness.

How do I get treatment for PTSD?
Talk to your primary care physician who can help connect you to appropriate treatment. St. Luke’s Penn Foundation is also here to help. Learn more at www.PennFoundation.org.