Post-traumatic stress disorder, or PTSD, develops in some people who have experienced a shocking, scary, or dangerous event. While it is normal to feel stressed, anxious, or relive memories from a traumatic event, those who continue to experience problems for a longer period of time.
What are the signs and symptoms of PTSD?
It is important to keep in mind that for individuals to experience PTSD, they don't have to have gone through a dangerous event --- some experiences, such as a sudden, unexpected death of a loved one, can cause PTSD. Symptoms usually begin early, within 3 months of the traumatic incident; however, sometimes they begin years after the event.
Individuals must have the following symptoms for at least 1 month (examples are not exhaustive and are just snapshots of symptoms):
- At least 1 re-experiencing symptom
- Flashbacks --- reliving the trauma over and over, which can include physical symptoms
- Bad dreams
- Frightening thoughts
- At least 1 avoidance symptom
- Staying away from places, events, or objects that are reminders of the traumatic experience
- Avoiding thoughts or feelings related to the traumatic event
- At least 2 arousal and reactivity symptoms
- Being easily startled
- Feeling tense or "on edge"
- Having difficulty sleeping
- Having angry outbursts
- At least 2 cognition and mood symptoms
- Trouble remembering key features of the traumatic event
- Negative thoughts about oneself or the world
- Distorted feelings (guilt/blame)
- Loss of interest in enjoyable activities
What are the risk factors for developing PTSD?
- Anyone can develop PTSD at any age --- war veterans; children; people who have been through abuse, an accident, disaster, or other serious events, etc.
- Living through dangerous events and traumas; getting hurt; feeling horror, helplessness, or extreme fear; having little or no social support after the event; having a history of mental illness or substance abuse
What are treatments and therapies for PTSD?
- Medications, such as antidepressants, can help control feelings of sadness, worry, anger, or feeling numb inside
- Psychotherapy --- support from family and friends can be an important part of the recovery
- CBT, which can include
- Exposure therapy --- gradual exposure to the trauma they experienced in a safe way; includes imagining, writing, or visiting the place where the event happened
- Cognitive restructuring --- make sense of the bad memories; may remember the event differently than how it actually happened
Here at Madrigal, we are committed to addressing school-related issues in a holistic manner.
*This information was adapted from the National Institute of Mental Health. Click here to learn more information.*