Many people are aware that post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) may occur after serving in combat or following an assault. But PTSD can also develop after suffering a traumatic injury in an accident, such as a car crash or explosion. We also commonly see clients who have developed PTSD following sexual abuse or assault.
What is PTSD?
Almost everyone experiences a range of emotions after a traumatic event, especially one that was life-threatening. But for people with PTSD, the memories of the event continue to cause intense emotional feelings months or even years after the trauma. PTSD can interfere with work, school, and relationships. It often leads to feelings of depression, anxiety, or anger that interfere with quality of life.
Causes of PTSD
According to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America, about 7.7 million adults in the United States have PTSD. That number may even be higher since not all people seek treatment. Various traumatic events can lead to PTSD. But the most common causes include combat, sexual assault, and a traumatic injury.
Many people suffer significant trauma and eventually recover emotionally from the event. Why some people develop PTSD is not fully understood, but there does appear to be several risk factors. Childhood trauma, a lack of support after the traumatic event and having a history of substance abuse or mental health issues increases a person’s risk of developing PTSD.
Symptoms of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder
Symptoms of PTSD often start within three months of the triggering traumatic event. But in some cases, symptoms can start years after the trauma. To be diagnosed with PTSD, symptoms must last longer than a month and be intense enough to interfere with normal functioning. Symptoms can include the following:
- Flashbacks of the trauma
- Avoidance of events or places that are a reminder of the traumatic event
- Trouble sleeping
- Loss of interest in activities
- Feeling tense or on edge
- Being easily startled
Mental health professionals rely on the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM) handbook, published by the American Psychiatric Association, as the authoritative duide to diagnose mental health disorders. The DSM-IV criteria for the diagnosis of PTSD includes the following:
It’s helpful to understand not all intense emotions are a result of PTSD. Many of the symptoms of PTSD may occur right after an event, such as a traumatic injury. When the symptoms occur immediately following the event, it is referred to as acute stress disorder. In many cases, symptoms of acute stress disorder gradually decrease. When the symptoms linger and interfere with daily life, the condition may be diagnosed as PTSD.
PTSD and Traumatic Injuries
PTSD is not uncommon after a traumatic injury. For example, being involved in a car accident that resulted in a serious injury can lead to PTSD. It’s also possible to develop the condition if someone else was the victim. For instance, if you were in an accident and witnessed the death of someone else, such as a loved one, it can lead to post-traumatic stress disorder.
According to a study published in the Journal of Trauma, adults who were hospitalized for a physical trauma had a high risk of developing PTSD. The study involved 677 trauma survivors hospitalized at trauma centers in the Los Angles area. The study followed participants six months and one year after the trauma. Researchers found that at six months, 31 percent of the participants met the criteria for PTSD. 12 months after the trauma 28 percent still has symptoms of PTSD.
How is PTSD Treated?
Treatment for PTSD often involves a comprehensive approach. In some cases, medication can help. Medication may be prescribed to treat symptoms, such as anxiety and depression.
Counseling is also usually advised. Talk therapy can help people deal with their fears. Various counseling strategies and techniques may be used to help people with PTSD find healthy ways to cope with their feelings.
Support groups and relaxation techniques can also be useful to treat PTSD. For example, yoga, medication, and acupuncture are complementary therapies, which can be helpful in treating emotional issues including post-traumatic stress disorder.
Without treatment, symptoms of PTSD can go on for years interfering with a person’s quality of life. In some cases, symptoms are so severe; it interferes with employment.
Fortunately, treatment can often help. But treatment can be costly. If you or a family member has developed PTSD caused by a traumatic accident, such as a car accident, workplace injury, sexual abuse, etc., we may be able to help to hold those responsible accountable. To schedule a consultation with one of our top-rated attorneys, please call our office at 312-698-3694. Consultations are free.