Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)

PTSD

 

Post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is an emotional illness that that is classified as an anxiety disorder and usually develops as a result of a frightening, life-threatening, or otherwise highly unsafe experience. Those who experience PTSD re-experience the traumatic event or events in some way, tend to avoid places, people, or other things that remind them of the event (avoidance), and often highly sensitive to normal life experiences (hyperarousal).

Symptoms of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder include:

Exposure to a Trauma

The person has been exposed to a trauma, in which he or she has experienced or witnessed an event involving the threat of death, serious injury, or a threat to the physical well-being of oneself or others. Note that only physical threats count in the definition of a trauma in PTSD.

Situations that represent a psychological threat (e.g., a divorce, being criticized by a loved one, being teased) are not considered traumas in the definition of PTSD, even though they may lead to difficulties for the individual.

 

A Response of Fear, Helplessness, or Horror

The immediate response to the trauma is one of fear, helplessness or horror (in children, it may be a response involving disorganized behavior or agitation). So, if an individual’s response to the trauma is one primarily of sadness or loss rather than fear (this is often the case following the death of a loved one who was ill), post traumatic stress disorder would likely not be diagnosed.

 

Symptoms of Re-experiencing the Trauma

The individual persistently re-experiences the event

 

Symptoms of Avoidance and Emotional Numbing

The individual avoids triggers and reminders of the trauma, or experiences a sense of emotional numbing.

 

Symptoms of Increased Arousal and Vigilance

The individual has symptoms of arousal and vigilance that were not present before the trauma

 

Virtually any trauma, defined as an event that is life-threatening or that severely compromises the physical or emotional well-being of an individual or causes intense fear, may cause PTSD. Such events often include either experiencing or witnessing a severe accident or physical injury, receiving a life-threatening medical diagnosis, being the victim of kidnapping or torture, exposure to war combat or to a natural disaster, exposure to other disaster (for example, plane crash) or terrorist attack, being the victim of rape, mugging, robbery, or assault, enduring physical, sexual, emotional, or other forms of abuse, as well as involvement in civil conflict.

Treatments for PTSD usually include psychological and medical treatments. Education about the illness, helping the individual talk about the trauma directly, exploration and modification of inaccurate ways of thinking about it, and teaching the person ways to manage symptoms and are the usual techniques used in psychotherapy.

Family and couples’ counseling, parenting classes, and education about conflict resolution are other useful psychotherapeutic interventions. York Region Psychological Services have therapists experienced in treating PTSD and its associated disorders. We use a variety of treatments, including hypnotherapy, cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) and EMDR.