What is PTSD?

Posttraumatic stress disorder, or PTSD, is a mental health disorder that develops in some people after witnessing or experiencing a traumatic event, like war, an accident, physical and/or sexual assault, the unexpected death of a loved one, or a natural disaster. Anyone can get PTSD. It is a health condition and not a sign of weakness.

Symptoms of PTSD are generally broken down into four categories: reliving, avoiding, increased arousal (also called hypervigilance), and negative cognition and mood.

Reliving symptoms include flashbacks, nightmares, and frightening thoughts. These symptoms make it feel like you are experiencing the traumatic event again. This can be activated by words, objects, or situations that remind you of the traumatic event. They can also occur seemingly for no reason at all.

Avoiding symptoms staying away from places, people, and objects that may remind you of the traumatic event, as well as avoiding emotions, thoughts, and memories related to the traumatic event. Avoidance can also involve not talking about or even thinking about the event, repressing everything related to it.

Increased arousal symptoms including being easily startled, constantly feeling tense or “keyed-up”, having difficulty calming down or sleeping, and having angry outbursts. Increased arousal symptoms are often constant, and increase stress to the point that it makes day to day tasks considerably more difficult.

Negative cognition and mood symptoms include memory issues, difficulty recalling specific events, negative thoughts and feelings, distorted feelings of guilt and shame, loss of interest in previously enjoyable activities, feeling numb, feeling hopeless, and suicidal thoughts/ideation.

These symptoms can become progressively worse when left untreated, and especially when combined with substance misuse.

If you believe that you or a loved one may have PTSD please take this free, anonymous, online screening

For more information about PTSD visit MHA’s website.

This page was produced in partnership with the Plantory AmeriCorps VISTA networkand Mental Health America of Kentucky.

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