For many years, most people believed that post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) solely affected people with combat experience or military backgrounds. But today, we know that PTSD can affect anyone who has experienced trauma — either directly or indirectly — at any time in their life.
In fact, PTSD is actually a lot more common than you might think, affecting about 12 million people in the United States every year, and about 6% of Americans during their lifetimes. Despite its prevalence, PTSD is still widely misunderstood, and that can make it more difficult for many people to seek timely treatment.
At The Marcann Group in Phoenix and Glendale, Arizona, our seasoned team of mental health experts helps patients struggling with PTSD get the care and support they need to manage their symptoms and lead healthier, happier lives.
Here are some of the most frequently asked questions about this common mental health condition.
PTSD is a condition that develops in some people who experience — either directly or indirectly — a scary, traumatic, or dangerous event that leaves them with lingering anxiety or fear symptoms.
While most people experience some degree of anxiety after such events, people with PTSD have long-term symptoms that can overwhelm their thoughts and disrupt their lives, often in significant or dramatic ways.
In addition to extreme anxiety, PTSD can cause symptoms like:
PTSD symptoms can mimic the symptoms of other anxiety disorders as well as depression, both of which can also develop as a consequence of unmanaged PTSD. The disorder is typically diagnosed if you have several of its characteristic symptoms for a month or longer.
No, and here’s why: First, it helps to remember that what feels severe to one person may be very different from what someone else thinks of as severe. Second, just as individual people experience trauma in different ways, the reactions they have to that trauma is also different.
It’s important to recognize that PTSD can develop as a result of a direct traumatic experience or in response to hearing or learning about a traumatic event. Essentially, all cases of PTSD are about the way a person connects to and processes the catalyzing trauma, whether they experienced it directly or heard about it from someone else.
Yes, PTSD affects people of all backgrounds and ages, including children. One common misconception is that PTSD only happens to “weak” people. That’s absolutely false.
PTSD is not a weakness. It’s your mind’s unique way of responding to a very stressful event, based on brain chemistry and other factors. Having signs or symptoms of PTSD — or any type of anxiety disorder or mental health issue — is no different than experiencing a medical problem with any other part of your body.
Just as a person with diabetes or heart disease isn’t “weak,” neither is someone with PTSD or any other mental health condition.
While PTSD symptoms may diminish over time, most people find it very difficult to manage their symptoms without medical treatment. PTSD symptoms can be intrusive, interfering with your regular activities, your performance at work or school, your relationships, and even your sleep patterns.
Seeking medical help as early as possible is important not only for relieving severe PTSD symptoms, but also for getting the insight, tools, and support you need to effectively manage the disorder and get your life back on track.
Most people with PTSD benefit from a combination of psychotherapy, cognitive behavioral therapy, and medication.
Sometimes called “talk therapy,” psychotherapy gives you a safe space to explore your reactions and even the event itself, helping you learn to process the event and its impact on your life. This type of therapy can also help you develop coping skills that enable you to deal more effectively with stressful reactions.
CBT focuses on helping you recognize the negative thought processes that drive adverse anxiety and stress reactions. Then, you’re taught how to “short-circuit” that negative-thinking process, improving your perception of those thoughts as well as how you respond to them.
Medication can help reduce anxiety, defuse depression, and improve your sleep. Although pharmaceutical therapy can help on its own by “rebalancing” your brain chemistry, it works especially well when combined with psychotherapy and/or CBT. In fact, for many patients, medication may make therapy more effective and beneficial, especially in the early stages of treatment.
Like other mental health concerns, PTSD is a real medical condition that benefits from real medical treatment. It’s not a weakness or a character flaw — it has a biological basis in your brain’s chemistry and function.
And, like other mental health issues, early treatment for PTSD means you can take control of your symptoms — and your life — a lot sooner. To learn more about PTSD treatment at The Marcann Group in Phoenix and Glendale, Arizona, schedule an appointment with our team online or over the phone today.