Understanding Post Traumatic Stress

Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) is sometimes referred to as Post-Traumatic Stress (PTS). The reasoning behind eliminating the “disorder” label is symptoms of PTS are seen by some as a human being’s natural reaction to experiencing, witnessing or being repeatedly exposed to a traumatic event. A traumatic event could be defined as witnessing death and dying, witnessing or experiencing life-threatening injuries and witnessing or experiencing sexual violence. Individual reactions to trauma vary as do individual human beings. However, PTS reactions can typically be placed into one of four groups. The first group is intrusive memories of the event such as nightmares or flashbacks. The second group is avoidance wherein an individual avoids places or topics which remind them of the traumatic event. The third group is a change in memory or mood as in not being able to remember part of the traumatic event and/or perpetually being in a bad mood or having a negative self-image. The fourth category of reactions surround being hyper-vigilant, also known as a constant state of being “on-guard.” Examples of hyper-vigilance include being easily startled, poor concentration and an irritable mood.
Fortunately, there is help. There are evidenced based therapies which aid in the recovery of PTS. Two examples of effective therapies for PTS are cognitive processing therapy and prolonged exposure therapy. Medications can also be effective in relieving the symptoms of PTS. A mental health provider can educate you regarding effective medications for PTS.
Additional Resources
The National Center for PTSD ran by the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs has information for Veterans, families, friends, the general public and professionals. www.ptsd.va.gov
American Psychiatric Association. (2013) Diagnostic and statistical manual of mental disorders, (5th ed.). Washington, DC: Author.

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