What is Post Traumatic Stress Disorder?

PTSD is a treatable anxiety disorder which can develop in individuals who have experienced severe psychological trauma. A diagnosis of post traumatic stress disorder may be the first step toward recovery for individuals still haunted by past experiences. Treatment for PTSD may include  intensive psychotherapy, psychotropic medications, or Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR).

The following is a simplified version of the criteria used by a psychiatrist, psychologist, or licensed clinical social worker to diagnose an individual with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder:

A: Exposure (either as victim or witness) to severe psychological trauma:

  • physical abuse
  • sexual abuse
  • domestic violence
  • abuse by alcoholic or drug addicted parent
  • catastrophic accident (auto, for example)
  • war
B: Intrusive Recollection
  • unbidden distressing recollections: images, thoughts, perceptions
  • recurrent distressing dreams
  • flashbacks
  • psychological distress caused by triggers related to original event (sounds, smells, people, feelings, places, etc.)
C: Hyper Arousal
  • difficulty falling or staying asleep
  • anger and irritability
  • difficulty concentrating
  • feeling consistently on edge
  • exaggerated startle response
D: Duration
  • Symptoms A, B, C experienced for more than one month.
E: Functional Impairment
  • Individuals feels like symptoms are causing serious disruption in personal relationships, professional relationships, and life in general.

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