Post-traumatic stress disorder: what it is, symptoms and treatment

Post-traumatic stress disorder: what it is?

Trauma survivors are susceptible to developing post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), a kind of anxiety illness. This condition causes intense suffering and damage to various aspects of life, such as work and relationships. Find out about tried-and-true methods of care, including psychotherapy.

Who can have post-traumatic stress disorder?

Several types of terrifying or threatening experiences can lead to the onset of post-traumatic stress, such as:

  • Physical or sexual violence;
  • Assault or kidnapping;
  • Car accident;
  • Natural disasters;
  • Diagnosis of life-threatening illness.

It is worth mentioning that even those who were not direct victims of such situations can receive the diagnosis. Witnessing an aggression or being informed that a family member has suffered a serious accident. For example, are also possible triggering factors.

Although anyone exposed to some form of psychological trauma can develop the disorder, women are affected twice as often as men .

Symptoms of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder

It is natural to be shaken following an experience like the ones mentioned above. For some people, however, the disturbing feelings and thoughts associated with the episode persist for months or even years. Which may indicate post-traumatic stress disorder. Affected individuals may show symptoms including:

Persistent memories – unintentionally reliving the trauma through distressing and repetitive memories. Nightmares or feeling that the traumatic event is happening again (“flashbacks”).

Physical Reactions – Circumstances reminiscent of the trauma can trigger physiological symptoms, including sweating, nausea, and tremors.

Avoidance behavior – avoiding places, people and activities that bring back painful memories. The person may also be unable to remember or talk about what happened.

Exaggerated arousal – includes being on constant alert, outbursts of anger, difficulty sleeping and concentrating.

Negative beliefs and emotions – for example, difficulty trusting others and maintaining close relationships; loss of interest in activities; feeling of guilt and shame. 

Treatment of post-traumatic stress disorder

Treatment for post-traumatic stress disorder can help adults and children gain control of fear and distress and cope with other symptoms. Do not hesitate to consult a trained mental health professional so that, together. You can decide on the approach or approaches that best suit your needs.Treatment of post-traumatic stress disorder may involve:

  • Psychotherapy – There are some types of psychotherapy that are useful for treating PTSD. Some of them are focused on trauma, that is, the patient is given the opportunity to share his experience. Although the act of recalling a traumatic event may seem intrusive and unpleasant. Repeated exposure to these memories in a safe and controlled manner is a mechanism for coping with and overcoming trauma.
  • Medication – Antidepressants, anti-anxiety medications, and other types of medications are commonly used to relieve PTSD symptoms. They can be used alone or in conjunction with psychotherapy or other treatments.

For more information about treatment, visit the PROVE website (Service for Assistance and Research in Violence and Post Traumatic Stress). A program of the psychiatry department of the Federal University of São Paulo (Unifesp) that assists people with post-traumatic stress. 

How to confirm the diagnosis

The main factor for diagnosing post-traumatic stress disorder is the history of a traumatic event that has put life at risk. Which a psychologist or a psychiatrist should evaluat..

In addition, the psychiatrist may order further evaluations to rule out organic illnesses. Such as alcohol and substance abuse and other psychological disorders such as depression or panic disorde. Which may have symptoms similar to post-traumatic stress.

How the treatment is done

Post-traumatic stress treatment should always be guided and evaluated by a psychologist or psychiatrist, as it needs to be adapted to each person. In most cases, treatment begins with psychotherapy sessions, using the method of cognitive-behavioral therapy, exposure and desensitization, which should start as soon as possible and be short, lasting an average of 12 sessions.

The psychiatrist may also recommend the use of medications such as selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors, such as sertraline and paroxetine, which help relieve symptoms of sleep disorders and panic attacks, as well as beta blockers, such as propranolol to relieve anxiety symptoms.


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