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Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)
PTSD is a mental health condition that’s triggered by a terrifying event - by either experiencing it or witnessing it. Symptoms may include flashbacks, nightmares and severe anxiety, as well as uncontrollable thoughts about the event.


Many people who experience traumatic events have difficulty adjusting and coping for a period of time, but they do not have PTSD. With time and proper self-care, symptoms recede and individuals return to normal functioning.


The diagnosis of PTSD is given when symptoms get worse (last for months or even years) and interfere with one’s ability to function on a day-to-day basis. Getting effective treatment after PTSD symptoms develop is imperative in order to reduce symptoms and restore optimal functioning.

PTSD symptoms are generally grouped into four types: intrusive memories, avoidance, negative changes
in thinking and mood, or changes in emotional reactions.

Intrusive memories
Symptoms of intrusive memories may include:

  • Recurrent, unwanted distressing memories of the traumatic event

  • Reliving the traumatic event as if it were happening again (flashbacks)

  • Upsetting dreams about the traumatic event

  • Severe emotional distress or physical reactions to something that reminds you of the event


Symptoms of avoidance may include:

  • Trying to avoid thinking or talking about the traumatic event

  • Avoiding places, activities or people that remind you of the traumatic event


Negative changes in thinking and mood
Symptoms of negative changes in thinking and mood may include:

  • Negative feelings about yourself or other people

  • Inability to experience positive emotions

  • Feeling emotionally numb

  • Lack of interest in activities you once enjoyed

  • Hopelessness about the future

  • Memory problems, including not remembering important aspects of the traumatic event

  • Difficulty maintaining close relationships


Changes in emotional reactions
Symptoms of changes in emotional reactions (also called arousal symptoms) may include:

  • Irritability, angry outbursts or aggressive behavior

  • Always being on guard for danger

  • Overwhelming guilt or shame

  • Self-destructive behavior, such as drinking too much or driving too fast

  • Trouble concentrating

  • Trouble sleeping

  • Being easily startled or frightened

First Steps specializes in the psychotherapy treatment of PTSD. Post-traumatic stress is treated and managed in several ways, including but not limited to:

  • Psychotherapy, including cognitive behavioral, cognitive-processing, mindfulness, and relaxation therapies

  • Self-management strategies, including psychoeducation and self-soothing strategies

If you or someone you know needs help, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 800-273-TALK (8255). Crisis Text Line also provides free, 24/7, confidential support via text message to people in crisis when they text to 741741.

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