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Is it Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)?

A guide to PTSD causes and symptoms

Many people think about our veterans when they hear PTSD. That’s for good reason — our combat vets are very much at risk to develop the disorder.

But, they’re not the only ones.

Anyone who’s lived through any event that was very scary, shocking, or dangerous can develop PTSD. These events are called trauma.

Fear and stress are natural during trauma. Eventually, those feelings should fade. If they don’t, that may be the first sign of PTSD.

So what causes PTSD?

Anyone who’s lived through trauma can develop PTSD. Examples of trauma include:

  • Loss of a loved one, both in death or them leaving.
  • Physical abuse.
  • Violence.
  • Mental abuse.
  • Very stressful events, like severe weather or fires.
  • Car accidents.
  • Getting hurt or a serious illness.

Most people will not get PTSD after trauma. But, anyone can develop the disorder. Some people are more likely to develop PTSD. For example, women are more likely to suffer from the disorder than men. People with a history of mental illness and substance use are also more likely to develop PTSD.

How do I know if I have PTSD?

PTSD affects everyone differently. Only a doctor who has experience helping people with mental illness can diagnose PTSD.

The National Institute of Mental Health says doctors will look for these signs.

At least 1 “re-experiencing” symptom

A re-experiencing symptom make people feel like they’re reliving the trauma. It causes problems in day-to-day routines. Words, objects, or situations can trigger them. Some examples include:

  • Flashbacks — reliving the event through memory.
  • Bad dreams.
  • Scary thoughts.

At least 1 “avoidance” symptom

An avoidance symptom makes people change their routine because parts of it remind them of their past trauma. For example, a person might:

  • Stay away from places, events, or objects.
  • Change their thoughts that remind them of the event.

At least 2 “arousal and reactivity” symptoms

Arousal and reactivity symptoms make people feel stressed or angry. Unlike normal feelings, these people with PTSD feel this way all of the time. They might:

  • Be startled easily.
  • Always feel tense or on edge.
  • Have a hard time sleeping.
  • Have angry outbursts.

At least 2 “cognition and mood” symptoms

Cognition and mood symptoms change the way people with PTSD think. Their thoughts can start normal, but over time, they might:

  • Have trouble remembering key parts of the trauma.
  • Have poor self-esteem.
  • Feel guilty about the event.
  • Lose interest in activities that used to make them happy.

How can I get help for PTSD?

If you believe you have PTSD, your first step is to talk to your doctor. Use PerformCare’s find a provider tool to find a  psychiatrist close to you. If you need help, talk to our Member Services team.

After you talked to a psychiatrist, check out our other PTSD articles to learn more the disorder.

Source: National Institute of Mental Health