In 1980, Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) was approved to be used as a diagnosis following extensive research involving returning Vietnam War Veterans, Holocaust survivors, sexual trauma victims, and others. PTSD is a condition that can happen after people see or live through a trauma. The PTSD diagnosis has filled an important gap in psychiatry because it specifies that PTSD is a direct result of an event the individual experienced, rather than a personal weakness.
Many different types of trauma can result in PTSD, including military combat, sexual or physical assault, disasters, childhood sexual abuse, sudden death of a loved one, severe physical injury or sudden-onset medical illness, and intensive care unit hospitalization. It is important to know that though some risk factors identified, doctors do not know why some people get PTSD and others don’t. For example, among people from a community primary care clinic, 65 percent reported a history of exposure to severe, potentially traumatic events but only 12 percent went on to develop PTSD [1,2]. In addition, PTSD can happen at any age.
Individuals with PTSD may experience changes in their thinking, mood and behaviors when they encounter something that reminds them of trauma they experienced. They often compensate for an intense feeling through avoidance, emotional numbing, and losing interest in people and activities. PTSD can cause poor sleep with nightmares, flashbacks of upsetting memories, anxiety, and other symptoms that can lead to having trouble with everyday stresses and situations.
It is important to know that symptoms of PTSD can come and go. They might return when people are under stress or see or hear something that reminds them of the trauma. Fortunately, there are many treatments that can help. The treatment options vary a lot because the individual traumas can be very different so it may take a person some time to find what works for them. Therapy is a very important of treatment and medications can be very helpful. Some of the medications that are often prescribed to help with the symptoms of PTSD are sertraline (Zoloft)/paroxetine (Paxil) which can help with depression/anxiety and prazosin which can reduce nightmares associated with PTSD.
If you are having trouble coping because of your PTSD symptoms, please remember that there is help and that recovery is possible. The path from crisis to hope can start with something as simple as a phone call or a visit to a medical professional.
- 1. PubMed. Posttraumatic stress disorder in the World Mental Health Surveys. Psychol Med. 2017;47(13):2260. Epub 2017 Apr 7.
- 2. PubMed. Posttraumatic stress disorder in the primary care medical setting. Gen Hosp Psychiatry. 2000;22(4):261.
- 3. Prazosin is not FDA approved to address PTSD associated nightmares. That means that using prazosin is considered “Off-Label”. The most common side effect is orthostatic hypotension so people using prazosin should make sure that they are in bed when they take it and in the morning that they get out of bed slowly.
Disclaimer: I, Dr. Eve Kellner, have no conflicts of interest in the subject matter or materials discussed in this publication.