Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)
Facts to know:
- Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is a mental health condition in which symptoms develop in response to a witnessed or experienced traumatic event.
- PTSD is relatively common. Between 6-9% of Americans will develop PTSD at some point in their lives.
- PTSD is very treatable condition. Both psychotherapy and medications can help improve symptoms and distress related to PTSD.
What is Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)?
PTSD is an anxiety condition that develops after an individual experiences or witnesses a traumatic event. While many people associate PTSD with veterans who have experienced combat (and indeed about 30% of combat veterans have symptoms of PTSD), civilians often experience PTSD as well. Other events that can cause PTSD include accidents, natural disasters, terrorist attacks, violent crime, physical abuse, sexual assault, and other experiences that threaten an individual’s physical, emotional, or psychological safety and well-being. Among civilians, women are more likely than men to have symptoms of PTSD.
Following a traumatic event, it is normal to think, act, and feel differently than usual. For example, someone may feel distressed and anxious when thinking about the event, reviewing the events in their mind repeatedly, have some difficulty sleeping, or experience changes in appetite. However, most people start to feel like themselves again after a few weeks or months. People with PTSD continue to experience symptoms that upset them and disrupt their ability to function in daily life for months or years after a traumatic event.
PTSD manifests differently in every person. Symptoms may start within one month of a traumatic event, but sometimes they may not appear until years after the event.
Symptoms are generally grouped into four types: intrusive memories, avoidance, negative changes in thinking and mood, and changes in physical and emotional reactions. Once symptoms begin, getting treatment as soon as possible can help prevent them from getting worse or persisting long-term. Untreated PTSD might lead to other mental health conditions such as substance abuse, depression and even suicidal thoughts.
Symptoms of PTSD include:
- Recurrent, unwanted distressing memories of the traumatic event (flashbacks)
- Upsetting dreams or nightmares about the traumatic event
- Trying to avoid thinking or talking about the traumatic event
- Avoiding places, activities or people that remind you of the traumatic event
- Difficulty maintaining close relationships and feeling detached from family and friends
- Lack of interest in activities you once enjoyed and feeling emotionally numb
- Being easily startled and on guard
- Self-destructive behavior, such as drinking too much or self –harm
- Trouble sleeping and concentrating
- Irritability and aggressive behavior
- Overwhelming guilt or shame
A diagnosis of PTSD is best made by a doctor or mental health professional such as a therapist or psychiatrist. A thorough clinical interview by an expert clinician who reviews the history and current symptoms can help establish a diagnosis.
ColumbiaDoctors provides a full array of treatments for PTSD. Psychotherapy and psychopharmacology have both been shown to be helpful in the treatment of PTSD. Since trauma symptoms are very specific to every patient, different types of therapy are appropriate to address different reactions to the traumatic events. Most treatments are comprised of a three phases:
- Achieving physical and emotional safety, reducing symptoms and harmful behaviors, and increasing competencies
- Review and reappraisal of memories of the trauma
- Consolidating gains
There are several different types of psychotherapy that are evidence-based treatments for PTSD. Some of these include Prolonged Exposure Therapy, Interpersonal Psychotherapy, Cognitive Processing Therapy, and others. Both individual and group therapies can offer help with the skills and tools needed to recover from trauma. Our therapists and psychiatrists are trained in the latest therapy modalities and can help you determine if therapy is right for you. In some cases, PTSD can be successfully treated with psychotherapy alone.
Medications may be an important component to treating PTSD. In particular, medications may be used to improve symptoms such as insomnia or nightmares to improve functioning more quickly. Here at ColumbiaDoctors, our psychiatrists combine a thorough evaluation of each individual’s problems with the latest research to design a customized treatment plan.
How Can I Receive Treatment for PTSD at Columbia?
At ColumbiaDoctors, we provide the full array of treatments for this condition. Search our providers for a therapist or psychiatrist with expertise in PTSD.
Please call 212-305-6001 or submit our online form to make an appointment or a referral.