The terms PTSD and post-traumatic stress disorder often get thrown around in casual conversation to express that an experience was a bit distressing. But often, someone is making light of that distress. Overhearing a comment like that can be frustrating for those with real-life experience with PTSD.
The people making those comments—the ones who say, “I saw someone shopping the other day while wearing a horrible outfit. I think I have a little PTSD from it”—probably don’t have a lot of experience with real post-traumatic stress disorder. They probably don’t know about the anxiety, the depression, the sleepless nights, and the avoidance of situations that cue difficult emotional responses, including panic, flashbacks, and crippling anxiety.
What Causes PTSD?
Post-traumatic stress disorder occurs after a traumatic event. While we often associate it with those who have been in armed conflict or witnessed an event such as a mass shooting or other violent event, it also occurs frequently in people who undergo interpersonal trauma, such as sexual assault or rape. PTSD can even manifest after an event such as a car accident, the death of a loved one, or a pregnancy- or childbirth-related trauma. It may occur in the immediate months after trauma, but sometimes it doesn’t show itself until years later.
Something that hasn’t received a lot of mainstream attention is the reality that, even if you were not directly involved in the events, you may be experiencing PTSD as a result of them. For example, there are some who were not present in New York when the Twin Towers were attacked, yet they’ve experienced PTSD from the events of that day. 9/11 marked a change in the lives of thousands of Americans, and it’s understandable that a change that drastic—and resulting from such a dramatic, public, and violent event—could cause long-lasting mental and emotional distress. If you believe you’re experiencing what’s called secondary post-traumatic stress disorder, don’t be afraid to call us. We want to help.
If you have experienced a traumatic event, studies show that seeking therapy in the weeks and months immediately following may be helpful in preventing post-traumatic stress disorder from manifesting. Using talk therapy, the therapist will work with the client to process the event(s) instead of letting them become repressed and later festering.
But, if it’s been some time since the events, you may have already started to realize you’re having trouble processing them in a healthy way, or, you may believe you are experiencing full-blown PTSD. In that case, seeking help as soon as possible is one of the best ways to begin to heal. All it takes is a phone call. Therapists at Thriveworks Portage can generally see you within just a day or two. You don’t have to wait to get help.
What Is Therapy for PTSD Like?
Before you reach out, you may wonder what exactly therapy for post-traumatic stress disorder at Thriveworks Portage looks like. In our first sessions, we always focus on getting to know our new client. We want to know who you are, what makes you tick, and what events brought you into our office. We work to be approachable, so we hope to earn your trust through our initial sessions–we want our clients to feel comfortable opening up about their deepest struggles so we can help them heal.
You’ll find that many of our sessions are just that: asking questions and offering guided exercises to help you think about and process the trauma in an effective way.
While we will focus on talk therapy (also called cognitive behavioral therapy or CBT), if we—therapist and patient together—decide medication to manage symptoms would be appropriate, we may prescribe that medication to supplement the work being done in our talk sessions.
The primary goal of talking through the trauma will be to evaluate how you have been processing the trauma over time. From there, we want to help you learn a new story to tell yourself about the experience that facilitates changing your perspective to a healthy one that will serve you long term, such as, “I experienced something difficult, but I cope with it in a healthy way.”