Have you experienced a traumatic event?
Studies indicate up to 90% of individuals will experience a traumatic event in their lifetime (e.g., experiencing physical or sexual assault; domestic violence; learning of the sudden, violent death of a loved one; or exposure to mass violence (e.g., 9/11) or a natural disaster (e.g., Hurricane Katrina).
Common reactions to trauma may include feelings of shock or disbelief, intense fear, or feelings of helplessness, depression, and loss of interest in activities you used to enjoy. These reactions are normal and tend to resolve on their own with time and emotional support from friends and family.
However, when these reactions intensify and persist beyond a month after the trauma, and become disruptive to your life, then you may be experiencing Posttraumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). PTSD is a debilitating psychological condition that may develop after exposure to a trauma.
Posttraumatic Stress Disorder symptoms may include:
- Intrusive and distressing thoughts and nightmares of the trauma.
- Persistent avoidance of reminders of the trauma (e.g., avoiding parks or other places; or using alcohol to avoid thinking about the trauma).
- Difficulty experiencing positive emotions such as love and happiness.
- Difficulty concentrating, difficulty sleeping, and feeling easily startled or on edge.
- Intense negative emotions such as fear, shame, and guilt.
- Believing that you are to blame for the traumatic event happening or that people are no longer trustworthy.
Treatment for PTSD typically consists of education on the nature of trauma and PTSD reactions, emotionally processing the trauma experience, identifying and replacing unrealistic thoughts and beliefs that you may hold about the traumatic event, and gradually facing situations and people that you have avoided since the trauma.
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