Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is a psychological condition some people develop after experiencing a traumatic event. You have probably heard of post-traumatic stress disorder before, especially in association with veterans who have been in combat. Though the chances of suffering from PTSD are higher in veterans and first responders (10-32%) than in the general population, about 8.6 million people in the United States are living with PTSD in any given year.
PTSD can be caused by a number of factors and situations outside of combat, including:
- A severe accident
- Sexual or physical assault assault
- Natural disaster
- Serious health problems
- Witnessing an accident or crime
- Childhood or domestic abuse
- Loss of a loved one
- Global crisis (including COVID-19)
After the traumatic event occurs, symptoms of PTSD generally appear within the first three months, but you may not fully develop PTSD until many months, and even years later. Some people never develop PTSD or may recover from the disorder within a few months of the traumatic event, while others remain symptomatic for a year or more, depending on their genetic and psychological predispositions and innate responses to stress. Left untreated, PTSD can be a debilitating disorder that impacts an individual’s relationships, moods, and choices for decades.
How Do I Know If I Have PTSD?
The difference between regular stress and PTSD is that the effects felt from a normal stressor tend to decrease shortly after the stressor goes away, while the effects of PTSD do not. For example, think back on a time you were under a lot of stress. Maybe you had to undergo an anxiety-inducing surgery or went through a divorce. Though these events were stressful, once they were overcome, your stress levels should have dropped back to normal relatively soon after.
This is not the case for PTSD. When experiencing symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder, you would find yourself feeling extremely stressed long after the traumatic event occurs. You might have consistent nightmares or flashbacks, where you feel as if the event is happening again. Memories of the event are distressing, and you go to extreme lengths to avoid being reminded of it. Perhaps you’re avoiding others and can’t stop feeling and thinking negatively about yourself, though you didn’t use to be like this.
Here are some other signs that you may be experiencing PTSD:
- Unprovoked irritability towards others
- Reckless or destructive behavior
- Constant state of alertness/arousal (jumpiness)
- Difficulty concentrating or forgetfulness
- Sleep disturbances (trouble falling or staying asleep)
- Feeling detached from reality (out-of-body)
How Can Counseling Help?
Thriveworks Counseling uses evidence-based treatments to help people like you with PTSD. Since post-traumatic stress disorder is related to a specific event, your counselor will assist you in confronting, identifying, and acknowledging fears and anxieties relating to the event in order to heal. At Thriveworks, we are about catering to the specific needs of the client, so we will work with you to see what treatment works best for you. Some empirically-based practices you may benefit from at Thriveworks include Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy, Trauma-Focused CBT, and EMDR. We are also now providing telemental health for all services, so you can get the help you need with the flexibility and convenience you deserve.
Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing Therapy
In researching treatments for PTSD, you may have come across a type of therapy called EMDR, or Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing. In EMDR therapy, you and your counselor will work together to change how you react and respond emotionally to your traumatic memories. To put it simply, the process moves in eight phases, in which your counselor will ask you to relive your experiences in short doses while they direct you through eye movements. EMDR is effective because your brain will begin to associate the traumatic memories with neutral and positive thoughts and emotions, instead of negative ones. Research finds this new association reduces the emotional intensity, increased alertness, and stress responses associated with the original traumatic event. If you are interested in exploring EMDR as a therapeutic treatment for PTSD, please contact us and request an appointment with Ami Patel, LCMHC. Ami is a certified EMDR therapist and will be happy to meet with you to determine if it is the right clinical approach for you.
If you believe you are experiencing PTSD, a psychologist or therapist at Thriveworks will work with you to develop a treatment plan that addresses the trauma and the effects it has had on you so that you can feel safe, less anxious, and more calm. Facing significant trauma can be scary and it takes some work to find lasting relief. The hardest part of the process is making the decision to get started and we are here to help. We offer both in-person and telehealth appointments at our locations in Cotswold and South Charlotte.
Written by Karola Richardson
Karola is a staff writer who is pursuing her Master of Arts in Mental Health Counseling with Play Therapy Concentration
Barrowcliff, A. L., Gray, N. S., Freeman, T. C. A., & MacCulloch, M. J. (2004). Eye-movements reduce the vividness, emotional valence and electrodermal arousal associated with negative autobiographical memories. Journal of Forensic Psychiatry and Psychology, 15 , 325–345.
Menon, S. B., & Jayan, C. (2010). Eye movement desensitization and reprocessing: a conceptual framework. Indian journal of psychological medicine, 32(2), 136–140. https://doi.org/10.4103/0253-7176.78512
RAND Center for Military Health Policy Research. Invisible wounds of war: psychological and cognitive injuries, their consequences, and services to assist recovery. Santa Monica, CA: RAND Corporation; 2008. http://www.rand.org/pubs/monographs/MG720.html.
Lewis-Schroeder, N. F., Kieran, K., Murphy, B. L., Wolff, J. D., Robinson, M. A., & Kaufman, M. L. (2018). Conceptualization, Assessment, and Treatment of Traumatic Stress in First Responders: A Review of Critical Issues. Harvard review of psychiatry, 26(4), 216–227. https://doi.org/10.1097/HRP.0000000000000176
American Psychiatric Association. (2013). Diagnostic and statistical manual of mental
disorders (5th ed.). https://doi.org/10.1176/appi.books.9780890425596