Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is a mental health condition that’s triggered by a terrifying event — either experiencing it or witnessing it. Symptoms may include flashbacks, nightmares and severe anxiety, as well as uncontrollable thoughts about the event.
Many people who go through traumatic events have difficulty adjusting and coping for a while, but they don’t have PTSD — with time and good self-care, they usually get better. But if the symptoms get worse or last for months or even years and interfere with your functioning, you may have PTSD.
Getting effective treatment after PTSD symptoms develop can be critical to reduce symptoms and improve function.
Post-traumatic stress disorder symptoms may start within three months of a traumatic event, but sometimes symptoms may not appear until years after the event. These symptoms cause significant problems in social or work situations and in relationships.
PTSD symptoms are generally grouped into four types:
- Intrusive memories
– Recurrent, unwanted distressing memories of the traumatic event
– Trying to avoid thinking or talking about the traumatic event
- Negative changes in thinking and mood
– Irritability, angry outbursts or aggressive behavior
- Changes in emotional reactions.
– Self-destructive behavior, such as drinking too much or driving too fast
When to see a doctor
If you have disturbing thoughts and feelings about a traumatic event for more than a month, if they’re severe, or if you feel you’re having trouble getting your life back under control, talk to your health care professional. Get treatment as soon as possible to help prevent PTSD symptoms from getting worse.
If you or someone you know is having suicidal thoughts, get help right away through one or more of these resources:
• Reach out to a close friend or loved one.
• Contact a minister, a spiritual leader or someone in your faith community.
• Call a suicide hotline number — in the United States, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 800-273-TALK (800-273-8255) to reach a trained counselor. Use that same number and press 1 to reach the Veterans Crisis Line.
• Make an appointment with your doctor, mental health provider or another health care professional.
When to get emergency help
If you think you may hurt yourself or attempt suicide, call 911 or your local emergency number immediately.
If you know someone who’s in danger of committing suicide or has made a suicide attempt, make sure someone stays with that person. Call 911 or your local emergency number immediately. Or, if you can do so safely, take the person to the nearest hospital emergency room.
Wellness Wisdom by LaVella Head