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PTSD Prognosis: Understanding and Treating Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder

PTSD Prognosis: Understanding and Treating Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder

Jul 29, 2022

Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) can affect anyone at any time. Although symptoms can last for months or even years, effective treatment can dramatically improve day-to-day functioning. 

What is PTSD?

PTSD is a mental health condition that can develop after witnessing or experiencing a traumatic event. “Almost everyone has a response to trauma, such as fear, anger, shock and guilt,” said Darren McMahon, LSCW, LCADC, Outpatient Wellness Manager at Inspira Health Center Woodbury and Glassboro. “While most people naturally recover with time, those with ongoing symptoms may be diagnosed with PTSD.” 

Signs and Symptoms of PTSD

PTSD symptoms usually begin within three months of the traumatic event. There are four main categories: intrusive thoughts, avoidance, arousal and cognition and mood. 

  • Intrusive thoughts: People with PTSD often relive their trauma in their thoughts and memories. Symptoms of intrusive thoughts include flashbacks, frightening thoughts and nightmares. Emotional distress or physical reactions can also occur when the person is triggered or reminded of the event. 
  • Avoidance: Avoidance symptoms include ignoring or not confronting thoughts and feelings related to the traumatic event. People with PTSD may also avoid people, places or activities that are triggering. 
  • Arousal: Changes in physical and emotional responses are PTSD symptoms. These responses include being easily startled, constantly feeling on edge, having trouble sleeping, difficulty concentrating, extreme irritability and angry outbursts. Arousal symptoms are usually constant, making it difficult to perform basic tasks. 
  • Cognition and mood: People with PTSD often experience memory problems, including difficulty recalling details of the traumatic event; hopelessness; negative thoughts about themselves, others and the world; feeling emotionally numb and detached from family and friends and a loss of interest in previously enjoyed activities.  

“It’s normal to experience some symptoms in the days and weeks following a traumatic event,” said McMahon. “However, ongoing issues that last longer than a month and impact your day-to-day functioning might be related to PTSD.” 

PTSD Diagnosis and Treatment

A psychologist or psychiatrist with experience treating mental illness can diagnose PTSD. For a diagnosis to occur, the following symptoms must be present on an ongoing basis for at least one month: 

  • At least one intrusive thoughts symptom 
  • At least one avoidance symptom
  • At least two arousal symptoms
  • At least two cognition and mood symptoms 

“Primary forms of treatment for PTSD include psychotherapy, medication or a combination of both,” said Carlos Coto, Psychiatric Nurse Practitioner at Inspira Health Woodbury and Glassboro. “Antidepressants or other classes of medication can help alleviate feelings of sadness, anger, worry and numbness, and other medicines may be helpful for symptoms like sleeplessness and nightmares. Several modalities of psychotherapy can help patients identify and cope with their emotions, while processing and learning about the effects of trauma.” 

Since PTSD affects everyone differently, what works for one patient may not work for another. Some people may need to try different treatments to see what works best to alleviate their symptoms. Doctors and patients can work together to develop effective treatment plans. 

PTSD research shows that support from family and friends is critical to recovery. If you’re supporting a family member with PTSD, you can help them by spending time with them or giving them space to confide. Help them identify and seek out comforting places, activities and people. Although progress is gradual, those diagnosed with PTSD will see improvements in their symptoms over time. 

Inspira Health is a high reliability organization (HRO), which means safety is the top priority for patients and staff. To make an appointment, call 1-800-INSPIRA.

Topics: Behavioral Health, Sleep