Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) is a trauma and stress related disorder that is triggered by a traumatic event (Psych central, 2014). PTSD is commonly associated with individuals who experience extremely traumatic events such as a natural disaster or warfare. However, PTSD can affect more than just people who have experienced dramatic traumas. PTSD symptoms can emerge as a result from any large event such as childhood trauma, divorce, injuries, death of a loved one, loss of a job or business, or any other life-changing event (PTSD Association, 2014).
So what exactly is PTSD? According to the PTSD Association, individuals with PTSD may exhibit symptoms such as flashbacks of the event, helplessness, abnormal fear, panic attacks, anxiety, depression, and sleep disturbances. The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5) outlines the specific criteria and symptoms and individual must exhibit to warrant a diagnosis of PTSD.
According to the DSM-5 an individual must experience symptoms in four different areas: intrusion, avoidance, negative alterations of cognitions and mood, and alterations in arousal and reactivity (U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, 2014). Intrusion symptoms refer to re-living the traumatic event in some way such as via nightmares, intrusive and recurrent memories, and flashbacks. Avoidance symptoms refer to individuals avoiding things which are related to the traumatic event such as external reminders and thoughts or feelings about the event. Negative alterations of cognitions and mood refer to a variety of psychological symptoms such as dissociative amnesia, persistent negative beliefs about oneself or the world, disinterest in activities, feelings of alienation, and relentless feelings of guilt, shame, and fear. The alterations in arousal and reactivity symptoms include exaggerated startle response, concentration issues, irritable or aggressive behaviour, and self-destructive or reckless behaviour.
To receive a PTSD diagnosis, individuals must experience the above symptoms for over one month. The symptoms must not be a result of any other illness, substance use, or medications and they must cause a significant amount of distress on the individual’s life. As PTSD may significantly affect a person’s ability to function on a day-to-day basis it is important that PTSD symptoms be taken seriously and treated effectively.
Treatment for PTSD commonly includes cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT). While undergoing treatment for PTSD, individuals may gain knowledge about PTSD and their symptoms through psychoeducation from their therapist. Other common components of PTSD treatment include anxiety management, exposure, and cognitive restructuring (U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, 2014).
There are many options for PTSD therapy in Edmonton. The Psychology Today website (www.psychologytoday.com) has a search tool which allows individuals to search for a therapist with experience treating individuals with PTSD. In addition, there is some group therapy options for PTSD treatment in Edmonton listed under Therapy Groups. As PTSD is a complex issue it is important for individuals to find a therapist who is a good fit for them and that they can trust.