PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder) is common to survivors of traumatic experiences. Sufferers of PTSD may be:
- easily startled
- experience disturbing flashbacks
- suffer from nightmares
- subject to aggressive outbursts
- experience strained relationships due to the symptoms of this disorder
Are you looking for a “Trauma therapist near me” to help with your PTSD symptoms?
Bregman Medical Group offers in-person appointment and online psychiatry (telepsychiatry) services to help patients within the Coral Gables, FL area and throughout the country. We are a team of mental health professionals specializing in the psychiatric treatment of mental disorders, including PTSD.
If you think you or someone you know has PTSD, we are here to help.
What is Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder?
Post-traumatic stress disorder is a common but serious disorder that some people develop after a tragic or traumatic event. You don’t necessarily need direct exposure to the trauma to develop PTSD. People who witness the trauma, those who learn that someone close to them has suffered from the trauma, or indirect exposure such as police officers exposed to aversive details due to the nature of their job can also develop PTSD.
It is normal for people to feel afraid when they encounter or witness traumatic situations, but while people typically recover from bad experiences, a person with PTSD may find it very hard to bounce back.
PTSD Signs and Symptoms
PTSD symptoms usually occur within three months after the traumatic event, but there are also cases where the symptoms emerge years after. For an adult to be diagnosed with PTSD, the symptoms should last for at least one month.
PTSD symptoms are classified into 4 categories. These are the following:
Reliving the Trauma
People who develop PTSD often find themselves reliving the trauma that they experienced. They have at least one intrusive and distressing thought of the event, flashbacks, as well as nightmares. When they experience exposure to things that remind them of the trauma, they become extremely distressed and have physical reactions.
People with PTSD develop at least one symptom of excessive avoidance.
People may avoid people, places, or things that remind them of what happened. Apart from avoiding external stimuli, a person may also avoid thoughts and feelings that are trauma-related.
Changes in Arousal and Reactivity
People with PTSD develop increased arousal and reactivity that started when the traumatic event happened. These can be in the form of:
- Heightened reactions
- Heightened alertness
- Involving with risky and destructive behavior
- Problems with sleeping
- Problems with concentrating
- Being irritable and angry
Having negative thoughts and feelings
People with PTSD develop at least two negative changes in thoughts and mood, beginning or worsening after the event. These changes can be in the form of:
- Extremely negative thoughts about oneself and the world
- Blaming of self or others for the trauma
- Problems with recalling the details of the event
- Feeling hopeless about the future
- Numbness of emotions
- Lacking interest in activities they used to like
- Feeling alone and isolated
- Difficulty feeling positive emotions
If you have questions about PTSD, our staff can help you.
Causes of PTSD
Post-traumatic stress disorder is a serious matter, and trauma comes in many forms.
People who develop PTSD experience extremely stressful events that are frightening or disturbing. Harmful and life-threatening events that can lead to PTSD can include:
- Any form of abuse
- Sexual or physical assaults
- Surviving serious accidents such as a car crash
- Being diagnosed with serious health problems
- Having a job that repeatedly exposes you to disturbing things (such as police officers and emergency responders)
- Experiencing wars, pandemics, terrorist attacks, or natural disasters
- Experiencing a death of a loved one
- Witnessing other people get hurt or killed (secondary trauma)
Risk Factors of PTSD
It’s important to remember that not everyone who experiences trauma can develop post-traumatic stress disorder. However, all people can feel its effects and can deal with PTSD-like symptoms that can last less than a month.
Everyone has their own way of dealing with extremely stressful situations, and some people are more vulnerable than others to developing PTSD. Some also develop more severe symptoms than others.
Many factors come into play for a person to develop PTSD. For example, someone who has experienced multiple traumas before may be more at risk of developing the disorder. Other factors also include your genetics, age, sex, differing social experiences, and personality traits. People diagnosed with another psychiatric disorder are also more likely to develop PTSD.
How Common is Post-traumatic Stress Disorder?
PTSD is a common psychological disorder. In fact, according to the National Center for PTSD, about 6% of the population in the U.S. will develop PTSD at some point in their lives. Women are also slightly more prone (8%) to developing post-traumatic stress disorder compared to men (4%) because they are more likely to experience sexual and physical abuse.
Post-traumatic Stress Disorder in Children and Teens
PTSD can occur across all ages, young and old. In children and teens, studies show that up to 43% of boys and girls experience at least one trauma. Of those, girls (3% to 15%) are more prone to develop PTSD compared to boys (1% to 6%).
Children and teens from abusive homes may develop PTSD due to neglect or any form of abuse (physical, sexual, or psychological).
Diagnosis of PTSD
To be diagnosed with PTSD, a doctor performs a physical examination to rule out any underlying medical problems that may cause your symptoms. A comprehensive psychological evaluation is then performed by the psychiatrist where you and your psychiatrist will talk about the symptoms you experience, and events that lead to those symptoms. The psychiatrist may also administer assessment tools specifically designed to diagnose PTSD.
The criteria in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fifth Edition (DSM-5) published by the American Psychiatric Association is used by psychiatrists to diagnose PTSD in patients.
According to the DSM-5 criteria, a person must:
- Be exposed or witness a traumatic event
- Have at least one intrusion symptom
- Have at least one avoidance symptom
- Have at least two negative changes to thoughts and feelings
- Have at least two arousal/ reactivity symptoms
These symptoms occur or worsen after the traumatic event, and they cause significant impairment to a person’s overall functioning.
Work with our Mental Health Professionals!
Experiencing PTSD can be very hard, and you will need all the support you can get to overcome it. At Bregman Medical Group, we understand what our patients need to help them overcome a wide array of mental health disorders. For many years, we have provided in-person mental health services to our patients in Coral Gables, Florida. We are also expanding our online psychiatry services to reach more patients in need.
If you think you or your loved one has PTSD, you are not alone. Let an experienced mental health professional help you and your family get through this challenging time.
Treatment of PTSD
Treatment for people with PTSD proves to be very helpful in lessening the symptoms and “disturbances” experienced. People with PTSD will need all the help and support they can get since PTSD does not usually go away on its own.
Below are the treatment options for PTSD patients.
Psychotherapy is when you talk to your psychiatrist about your present symptoms. Your therapist helps you process the traumatic event and guides you to make a sense of what you are thinking and feeling. By doing this, you will begin to effectively cope with your PTSD symptoms.
Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) is the most effective type of therapy used by therapists, both for short-term and long-term PTSD patients. It is also the most widely used therapy. In CBT, the treatment is trauma-focused which means that the psychiatrist and patient view the trauma at the center of the treatment. The patients are actively engaged in the treatment process as they learn to identify, understand, and develop more positive ways of thinking, feeling, and behaving.
Cognitive Processing Therapy (CPT) is a specific CBT treatment that helps patients evaluate the traumatic event and its impact on them. CPT helps people process their thinking by distinguishing the basis of their thoughts. This is especially helpful for some people with PTSD who blame themselves for the traumatic event even if not supported by facts.
Prolonged Exposure (PE) Activities is another type of CBT that helps clients gradually decrease their anxiety to trauma-related stimuli until they stop their avoidance symptoms. In PE activities, the psychiatrist may gradually and repeatedly expose the person to the specific stressor that he may be avoiding or the psychiatrist may let him narrate the details of the tragic experience.
Counseling and talk therapies can be done one-on-one, in groups, or both.
For some patients, medication is used in conjunction with psychotherapy. For example, prescription medication like selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs)/ antidepressants can sometimes be given to people showing depressive symptoms. Anti-anxiety medications can also be prescribed for patients experiencing severe anxiety.
Other Treatment Options
Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR) is an individual therapy that involves processing your trauma-related thoughts and feelings and using directed eye movements. Your psychiatrist may let you recount your traumatic memories while you focus your eyes on other movements. This activity helps reduce your negative reactions as you go through the memories of the traumatic experience.
Mental Disorders Related to PTSD
There are a lot of mental disorders that are related to PTSD and there are many people who are diagnosed with PTSD that live with a comorbid disorder.
Anxiety and PTSD
When people with PTSD do not get the treatment and support they need, their anxiety symptoms may worsen into a generalized anxiety disorder, panic disorder, or social anxiety disorder.
People with generalized anxiety disorder feel anxious for general, everyday things to the point that they cannot work properly. PTSD can also cause people to go through panic attacks, especially when they see something that reminds them of the trauma. Thus, if not treated, it can develop into a panic disorder.
Lastly, since people with PTSD may feel isolated from others, they may develop social anxiety disorder where they have an overwhelming fear of being in social situations.
Depression and PTSD
In many cases, people who are diagnosed with PTSD also develop depression following their traumatic experiences. Being clinically depressed is not just being sad, but it negatively affects how one functions at work and at home. Depressive symptoms are also shared with PTSD symptoms where a person demonstrates a lack of interest in hobbies or activities one used to enjoy.
Substance Use Disorder and PTSD
There is a lot of research that links substance use disorder to PTSD. PTSD is considered a risk factor for a person developing a substance use disorder, and vice versa. This is not surprising as there are people who turn to alcohol and drug use during or after a traumatic event to help cope with their trauma.
Some people with PTSD opt not to seek help from a mental health provider because they are afraid, guilty, or ashamed of what happened. This is why it’s also important for family members to be sensitive to behavioral changes in a person with PTSD to offer support and assistance.
If a person with PTSD has substance use disorder, it is important to concurrently treat them since SUD can cause serious changes in a person’s brain affecting their decision-making and self-control.
Acute Stress Disorder vs. Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder
Acute stress disorder is diagnosed for people who undergo the symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder and have a significant functional impairment during the first 30 days from the traumatic event. Some patients recover within 30 days, but for those patients who remain symptomatic, their diagnosis is reclassified as PTSD.
Talk with our Mental Health Professionals
We at Bregman Medical Group understand that part of leading a full and healthy life is to take care of your mental health. If you are experiencing PTSD symptoms, Dr. Bregman and his team are here to provide professional help with our years of experience.
Meet Dr. Bregman
Dr. Arthur Bregman, Dr. B as long-time patients call him, has been in practice for over 40 years. He has treated a wide array of mental disorders across age groups - children, teens, and adults. For decades, he held the position as Chief of Psychiatry of Nicklaus Children’s Hospital; and in 2012, he received the “America’s Best Doctors” award.
Now, Dr. Bregman still helps hundreds of patients by leading the private psychiatric practice of Bregman Medical Group.
Request a one-on-one appointment with Dr. Bregman today!