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Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is listed under the new category called Trauma- and Stressor- Related Disorders in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fifth Edition (DSM-5). It is a mental health condition that is characterized by “intrusive thoughts, nightmares and flashbacks of past traumatic events, avoidance of reminders of trauma, hypervigilance, and sleep disturbance, all of which lead to considerable social, occupational, and interpersonal dysfunction.” PTSD may develop when an individual has experienced severe stress or anxiety after being exposed to a traumatic event. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), describes trauma as “an event, or series of events, that causes moderate to severe stress reactions…[that are] characterized by a sense of horror, helplessness, serious injury, or the threat of serious injury or death.” Examples of the most common causes of PTSD include the following, provided by the American Psychiatric Association (APA):

  • Childhood abuse
  • Sexual assault
  • Military combat
  • Violent assault
  • Natural disaster 
  • Living through a traumatic physical ailment

The National Institute of Mental Health identify certain factors that may increase one’s risk for developing PTSD, some of which include the following:

  • Getting hurt
  • Seeing another person hurt, or seeing a dead body
  • Childhood trauma
  • Living through dangerous events and traumas
  • Dealing with extra stress after the event, such as loss of a loved one, pain and injury, or loss of a job or home
  • Feeling horror, helplessness, or extreme fear
  • Having a history of mental illness or substance abuse

It is important to note that not every individual who experiences a highly traumatic event will inevitably go on to develop PTSD. 

Signs and Symptoms

There are many possible signs and symptoms that could manifest because of PTSD. Some examples could include, but are not limited to, any combination of the following, provided by the Boston Children’s Hospital:

  • Sleeplessness
  • Anger
  • Hopelessness
  • Chronic exhaustion
  • Physical ailments
  • Agitation
  • Depression 
  • Reckless behaviors
  • Regressions
  • Irritability
  • Isolation
  • Hyper vigilance
  • Irregular sleep
  • Difficulty with physical contact
  • Anxiety
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Low self-esteem
  • Constant feelings of fear and worry
  • Experiencing crying spells
  • Tense muscles
  • Social anxiety

Research indicates that with proper treatment and support, PTSD is a highly treatable condition.

For Information and Support 

Every family in need of mental health treatment must select a program that will best suit the needs of their family. When one member of a family struggles, it impacts everyone in the family unit. To maximize the benefits of treatment we work closely with the entire family to ensure that everyone is receiving the support they need through these difficult times. Seeking help is never easy, but you are not alone! If you or someone you know needs mental health treatment, we strongly encourage you to reach out for help as quickly as possible. It is not uncommon for many mental health difficulties to impact a person’s life, long term. Pursuing support at the beginning of one’s journey can put the individual in the best position to learn how to manage themselves in a healthy way so they can go on to live happy and fulfilling lives.


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