How do you determine whether a person has Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)?
PTSD can apply to children, adolescents and adults. To be diagnosed with PTSD, a person must have experienced or witnessed a severely traumatizing event. Not everyone who experiences or witnesses trauma will develop PTSD, but those who do will exhibit some or all of the symptoms that comprise the criteria for PTSD, according to the DSM-5. Some of the more common symptoms include:
- Memory issues
- Avoidance behaviors
- Sleep disturbance
- Negative beliefs about oneself or the world
It’s also important to note that PTSD symptoms can manifest differently in people. Children and adolescents may present more with inattentive behaviors, increased anger and increased startle response. At times, this can be misdiagnosed as Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder or a behavioral issue.
What types of evidence-based treatment exist for PTSD?
The primary therapy utilized with PTSD is Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT), which helps an individual process the traumatic event by focusing on thoughts and emotions related to the incident as well as the current behaviors/symptoms that resulted from experiencing the event.
Exposure Therapy is a type of CBT that helps to reduce a person’s avoidant behaviors related to the traumatic event. The goal of exposure therapy is to decrease an individual’s symptoms of anxiety related to the event.
Eye Movement Desensitization Reprocessing Therapy (EMDR) helps reprocess traumatic memories that are causing distressing symptoms. To accomplish this goal, EMDR uses bilateral stimulation, which includes one of three options: following the clinician’s fingers with your eyes, holding objects that vibrate or wearing headphones that play alternating sounds. This type of treatment does not require an individual to speak about the specific details of the traumatic event.
Additionally, medication may be prescribed to decrease the severity of the symptoms. It is often recommended for medication to be combined with therapy to help improve an individual’s overall functioning.
What are the typical goals of therapy for a person diagnosed with PTSD?
The main goals of therapy would be to decrease the presenting symptoms, learn new coping skills and improve a person’s thoughts and worldview. A typical treatment plan for PTSD includes the client being able to identify the traumatic experience that occurred as well as process their emotions, behaviors and current presenting symptoms that stemmed from the traumatic event.
Is there other information about PTSD that you feel is important to share?
I believe that it is important to recognize that each person is going to respond to life events differently. A traumatic experience is anything that negatively affects the brain and body's ability to function. An event that may seem minor to some, could be debilitating to others which could result in a PTSD diagnosis. It is important to refrain from shaming or judging others for their struggles with difficult events.
If you’re struggling with PTSD, Travco Behavioral Health can help you regain control of your life. Learn more at https://www.wecaremoreohio.com/travco.