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Post Traumatic Stress Disorder

by Michele Rosenthal

PTSD Facts

Did you know...

- 70% of adults in the U.S. have experienced a traumatic event at least once in their lives...

- Up to 20% of these people go on to develop PTSD - that is 60 million people, and the number grows every day...

- In the past year alone the number of diagnosed cases in the military jumped 50% - and that is only counting cases that have been diagnosed.

- Studies estimate that 1 in every 5 military personnel returning from Iraq and Afghanistan has PTSD...

- An estimated 5% of Americans - that is 15 million people - has PTSD at any given time...

- An estimated 1 out of 10 women develops PTSD; women are about twice as likely as men....

As far back as ancient times anthropologists have found hieroglyphics depicting symptoms of PTSD in warriors returning home. Today, in our world of increased natural and man-made disasters and traumas the stress of experience is taking its toll.

The best thing we can do in order to help ourselves and others cure PTSD (because this is a treatable condition) is educate ourselves about PTSD - its causes, symptoms and treatments.

Causes of PTSD

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According to Sidran Foundation, one of our leading trauma organizations, PTSD appears in "Anyone who has been victimized or has witnessed a violent act, or who has been repeatedly exposed to life-threatening situations."

This includes survivors of:

- Domestic or intimate partner violence

- Rape or sexual assault or abuse

- Physical assault such as mugging or carjacking

- Other random acts of violence such as those that take place in public, in schools, or in the workplace

- Children who are neglected or sexually, physically, or verbally abused, or adults who were abused as children

- Survivors of unexpected events in everyday life such as:
>> Car accidents or fires
>> Natural disasters, such as tornadoes or earthquakes
>> Major catastrophic events such as a plane crash or terrorist act
>> Disasters caused by human error, such as industrial accidents, medical mistakes

- Combat veterans or civilian victims of war

- Those diagnosed with a life-threatening illness or who have undergone invasive medical procedures

- Professionals who respond to victims in trauma situations, such as, emergency medical service workers, police, firefighters, military, and search and rescue workers

- People who learn of the sudden unexpected death of a close friend or relative

Symptoms of PTSD

In the immediate aftermath of trauma - say, the first month or so - many people suffer from Acute Stress, which includes the following symptoms:

- Anxiety

- Behavioral disturbances

- Dissociation (normal integration of consciousness and sense of self is disrupted)

- Hyperarousal (the physiological acute stress response)

- Avoidance (of memories related to the trauma)

- Flashbacks

- Nightmares

All of these symptoms are part of the normal steps of how trauma survivors process the recent event.

However, if these symptoms persist for more than one month and begin to functionally impair and significantly upset the survivor, then the diagnosis is changed to Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.

Psychologists often refer to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual (DSM) to positively identify According to the DSM-IV classification system, a diagnosis of PTSD can be made if the subject meets the following six criteria:

A. The person has been exposed to a traumatic event in which both of the following were present...

- The person experienced, witnessed, or was confronted with an event or events that involved actual or threatened death or serious injury, or a threat to the physical integrity of self or others.

- The person's response involved intense fear, helplessness, or horror.

B. The traumatic event is persistently re-experienced in one (or more) of the following ways...

- Recurrent and intrusive distressing recollections of the event, including images, thoughts, or perceptions recurrent distressing dreams of the event

- Acting or feeling as if the traumatic event were recurring (includes a sense of reliving the experience, illusions, hallucinations, and dissociative flashback episodes, including those that occur on awakening or when intoxicated)

- Intense psychological distress at exposure to internal or external cues that symbolize or resemble an aspect of the traumatic event

- Physiological reactivity on exposure to internal or external cues that symbolize or resemble an aspect of the traumatic event

C. Persistent avoidance of stimuli associated with the trauma and numbing of general responsiveness (not present before the trauma), as indicated by three (or more) of the following...

- Efforts to avoid thoughts, feelings, or conversations associated with the trauma

- Efforts to avoid activities, places, or people that arouse recollections of the trauma

- Inability to recall an important aspect of the trauma markedly diminished interest or participation in significant activities

- Feelings of detachment or estrangement from others

- Restricted range of affect (e.g., unable to have loving feelings)

- A sense of a foreshortened future (e.g., does not expect to have a career, marriage, children, or a normal life span)

D. Persistent symptoms of increased arousal (not present before the trauma), as indicated by two (or more) of the following...

- Difficulty falling or staying asleep

- Irritability or outbursts of anger

- Difficulty concentrating

- Hypervigilance

- An exaggerated startle response

E. Duration of the disturbance (symptoms in Criteria B, C, and D) is more than 1 month.

F. The disturbance causes clinically significant distress or impairment in social, occupational, or other important areas of functioning.

Common PTSD Treatment Methods

PTSD is a treatable and curable disorder with treatment falling into the following categories:

Talk therapy - Psychotherapy that emphasizes the client and practitioner speaking on the conscious level about problems, issues and solutions.

Cognitive therapy - Short-term psychotherapy based on the concept that how we think about things affects how we feel emotionally. Changing our perceptions of events on the subconscious level changes our thoughts, which in turn changes our emotions and thus behavior.

This includes such trauma specific therapies as Thought Field Therapy, Emotional Freedom Therapy, and Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing. In this type of therapy the present is stressed and the past not deeply discussed.

Hypnotherapy - Including hypnosis, Neurolinguistic Programming, and Time Line Therapy. This type of therapy also focuses on changing perceptions of events on the subconscious level, through the power of suggestion. In this form of treatment the person experiencing PTSD focuses on building a new future rather than rehashing the past.

Medication - The use of pharmacological agents in treating PTSD largely focuses on controlling PTSD symptoms so that the sufferer can better use and focus his/her energy toward healing. Such agents include antidepressants, antipsychotics, anxiolytics, and mood stabilizers.

Self-empowered recovery - In addition to professional treatment, there are many proactive methods that a person recovering from PTSD can use to move him or herself beyond trauma.

These activities include such practices as learned breathing techniques, meditation, and a process of self-discovery that allows the trauma victim to construct a post-trauma identity that allows the person to integrate the traumatic memories into his or her new self.

In regard to the efficacy of the various trauma treatments, American Health Magazine recently reported these findings from a comparison study:

- Psychoanalysis: Creates a 38% recovery after 600 sessions

- Behavioral Therapy: Creates a 72% recovery after 22 sessions

- Hypnotherapy: Creates a 93% recovery after 6 sessions

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About the Author

Michele Rosenthal is a survivor of trauma and chronic-extreme PTSD. Her own healing came after a six year focused healing pursuit involving a mix of Cognitive Behavior Therapy, self-recovery methods, and hypnosis.

Michele advocates for PTSD education, awareness, treatment, healing and the unity of the PTSD community. She blogs about healing PTSD at, and specializes in teaching PTSD sufferers to advance healing through the process of constructing a post-trauma identity.

Contact Michele via email at

More PTSD Resources...

The most respected trauma tome is Trauma and Recovery: The Aftermath of Violence--from Domestic Abuse to Political Terror by Judith Herman, M.D.

Another informative book is Waking the Tiger : Healing Trauma : The Innate Capacity to Transform Overwhelming Experiences by Peter A. Levine with Ann Frederick

Also see Also see The PTSD Workbook: Simple, Effective Techniques for Overcoming Traumatic Stress Symptoms

A truly phenomenal, comprehensive PTSD site is David Baldwin's
Trauma Information Pages

Of course, see Michele's outstanding blog for many more resources:
Parasites Of The Mind
Life Coaching New Book Offer!
The CLC Blog
Free Consultation
Contact Us
About the Coach
Statement of Faith
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Coach's Corner
Helpful Articles Relationship Articles
Anger Articles
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Stress Articles
Stress Resources
Christian Stress

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Summary of PTSD

There is no universal path to PTSD recovery. Each person is unique in his or her trauma and individual reactions.

The best thing to do for yourself or your PTSD loved one is to research available treatments and go with what feels most comfortable.

As your healing progresses you will know when it is time for something new and when you need to explore other options.

The most important thing is to be sure you work with practitioners who are properly skilled and licensed to deal with trauma and PTSD.

New Book Offer!

Find out about James Klotzle's new Stress Management book: God In Our Stress Find out about James Klotzle's new book...

God In Our Stress: the Christian's Guide to Stress Management

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