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Self Help Education Center

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Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)

What is PTSD?

PTSD is a disorder that can manifest after an individual experiences a severe, traumatic event where death or serious injury can occur. It is often experienced by those who fight in wars or those who suffer through wars. However, it is certainly not limited to this category of people – survivors of abuse, sexual abuse, bodily harm, auto / travel accidents, witnessing the death of a loved one, incarceration and assault can all be at risk for the development of PTSD. A person suffering from PTSD may have terrible nightmares, cold sweats, flashbacks of the event, anger management problems and / or avoid talking about or processing the traumatic event. Quite often PTSD is mistaken for depression or general anxiety.

Symptoms of PTSD

According to the DSM-IV symptoms can include:

  • Recurring thoughts, images or perceptions of the event
  • Nightmares about the event
  • A trance-like state where the person thinks they are reliving the event
  • A physical reaction to stimuli associated with the event
  • Loss of memory regarding the event
  • Avoidance of anything that reminds the person of the event
  • Difficulty concentrating, sleep problems and hypervigilance

Treatment for PTSD

There are a wide variety of treatments for PTSD. Exposure therapy is a therapy where the individual exposes him / herself to the traumatic memories and thus processes them so that they lose their potency. This should be done under the care and guidance of a skilled therapist. Cognitive behavioral therapy has also been shown to work healing PTSD. This is a form of therapy where unhealthy thoughts (“cognitions”) are targeted which in turn leads to better emotional health. An emerging treatment for PTSD is EMDR (Eye Movement Desensitization Reprocessing) – this involves the individual focusing on stimuli such as moving lights which allows the brain to reprocess the traumatic material. Please note that all therapy should only be done under the guidance of a trained therapist. There are also many support groups for PTSD, as well as online groups