Post-traumatic stress disorder, or PTSD, is a disorder that can develop in some people who have experienced or witnessed a shocking, frightening, dangerous, or otherwise traumatic event.
While PTSD is often associated with veterans, it can happen to anyone who has seen or experienced a traumatic event. An event does not have to be dangerous to be traumatic; for instance, the sudden, unexpected death of a loved one can also lead to PTSD.
It is normal to feel afraid during and after a traumatic situation, and most people will experience a range of different reactions afterwards, but for those with PTSD, these reactions don’t go away (in some cases, symptoms may not appear until years later). Symptoms can include:
- Flashbacks (reliving the trauma repeatedly)
- Experiencing physical symptoms like a racing heart or sweating during flashbacks
- Bad dreams
- Frightening or negative intrusive thoughts
- Avoiding places, events, or objects that are reminders of the traumatic experience (especially if these places, events, or objects are otherwise benign)
- Avoiding thoughts or feelings related to the traumatic event
- Being easily startled
- Constantly feeling tense
- Difficulty sleeping
- Angry outbursts
- Exaggerated blame of self or others for the trauma
- Trouble remembering key features of the traumatic event
- Risky or destructive behavior
- Drug or alcohol abuse
- Feelings of depersonalization (feeling detached from one's self, as if observing instead of experiencing)
- Feelings of derealization (experiencing distance or distortion from one's self, as if things no longer feel real)
If you feel like you may be suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder, or if you feel like you are having difficulty processing a traumatic experience, therapy can help.
If you feel unsure, you can also use our free, confidential mental health screening tool to learn more. ACP offers therapy for PTSD, as well as psychiatric services for those who may benefit from medication.