Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) is an often debilitating mental condition triggered by either experiencing or witnessing a disturbing event. Individuals typically face daytime flashbacks and/or nightmares, along with severe anxiety associated with the experience.
While most people who go through a traumatic experience will temporarily experience difficulty coping, the majority of people begin to heal with some time and support. However, for some, adjusting can get harder over time, lasting months, and even years. Symptoms can become so severe individuals may be unable to carry out day-to-day activities, even ones they usually enjoy.
PTSD is a complex condition, with even the symptoms being quite varied. While symptoms of PTSD can start to present themselves within the first month after the event, it’s not uncommon for these symptoms to lie dormant for years until they begin to manifest.
There are four main types of PTSD, including acute stress disorder, uncomplicated PTSD, comorbid PTSD, and complex PTSD. Acute stress disorders are not actually PTSD. These are typically associated with experiencing a “life-threatening” event. However, unlike a normal stress response, acute stress disorders will develop into PTSD if left untreated.
Uncomplicated PTSD is generally the easiest form of PTSD to treat, as it’s associated with a single traumatic event, as opposed to an ongoing trauma, also known as complex PTSD. Both uncomplicated and complex PTSD typically involve avoidance of similar situations, as well as flashbacks to the event, or events. Finally, comorbid PTSD covers individuals who are suffering from multiple different conditions alongside their PTSD symptoms.
Other risk factors for developing PTSD are still being researched, but experts believe a history of depression or anxiety can significantly increase your chances of developing PTSD after a trauma. The reason our brains respond this way is also still being understood.
Many believe PTSD results from a defect in our survival mechanism, which keeps traumatic experiences fresh in our minds. However, some studies have shown people with PTSD tend to have abnormally higher stress hormone levels, while others show those with PTSD usually have a smaller hippocampus, which may result in the recurring flashbacks.
Nearly 9 million adults in the US are currently dealing with some form of PTSD or around 3.5%. Statistics show that women are almost twice as likely to experience PTSD than men, but it can occur to anyone at any age.
Given the high rate of occurrence and debilitating symptoms, experts continue to work to uncover new and effective treatments for PTSD. If you or a loved one may be suffering from PTSD, it’s important to talk to your doctor as soon as possible. Only a medical professional can provide an accurate diagnosis, along with the most relevant treatment options.