7 FAQs About PTSD

Ph.D., CPsychol., AFBPsS, Health Professional

We all have bad memories we’d much rather just forget. But sometimes the memory of a traumatic event, whether it be life threatening or not, can be so hard to cope with that a person may try to suppress it, triggering a severe stress reaction called Post-traumatic Stress Disorder, or PTSD.

So how do you know if you’re experiencing symptoms? If so, what’s the best treatment? Here are three important things to keep in mind.

The three classic symptoms of PTSDSigns of PTSD are easily recognizable. The condition can at times trigger a re-experiencing of that particular traumatic event in the form of** intrusive memories**,** flashbacks or nightmares.** At other times, victims find themselves going through great lengths to** avoid reminders** of what happened. The last category of symptoms is** arousal**, in which a person experiences** anxiety symptoms** such as vigilance, sleeplessness and poor concentration.

If you’ve experienced or seen a traumatic event, and have had these symptoms in the aftermath, you may well have PTSD. Also know that while PTSD typically sets in after a traumatic experience, it may not affect others the same way it affects you -- so don’t use your observations of them as a yardstick to compare and evaluate your own symptoms.

Certain types of people are more prone to PTSD

Over the course of a lifetime, about 10 percent of women and 4 percent of men will experience PTSD, according to estimates from the National Center for PTSD.

The memory component of psychological trauma suggests guilt may play a factor in who experiences PTSD. People may start asking themselves questions like “Why during a trauma didn’t I fight back?” or “Why did I survive yet others didn’t?” Unhelpful thoughts can be powerful triggers.

For those with PTSD, the world can also seem like a more dangerous place or serve to reveal personal inadequacies. This can lead to the person putting unnecessary restrictions on themselves out of fear of the trauma returning.

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy has shown to be an effective approachIf you think you may have PTSD, the first person to see is your family doctor. Your GP may be able to recognize symptoms and refer you to** qualified specialists** in the area. Since trauma can vary from the passing of a loved one, to graphic episodes such as military conflict, natural disasters, rapes, muggings, etc., it can also be helpful to receive support from someone who** understands your personal situation.**

There are different approaches to treating PTSD. A typical trauma-focused program that utilizes cognitive behavioral therapy may take 8-12 sessions, lasting around an hour per session. The therapist will take into account the complexity of the trauma to determine the necessary number of sessions.

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Dr. Jerry Kennard is a Chartered Psychologist and Associate Fellow of the British Psychological Society. Jerry's clinical background is in mental health and, most recently, higher education. He is the author of various self-help books and is co-founder of positivityguides.net.