Haunted by the Past? Understanding & Healing from PTSD

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Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is a mental health condition that’s triggered by a terrifying event — either experiencing it or witnessing it.

Traumatic events are those that involve actual or threatened death, serious injury, or sexual violence. Examples of traumatic events include combat exposure, natural disasters, car accidents, physical or sexual assault, and acts of terrorism.


The symptoms of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) can vary widely from person to person, and they often fall into four main categories. It’s important to note that not everyone with PTSD will experience all of these symptoms, and the severity of the symptoms can also differ. The symptoms generally persist for more than a month and can significantly impact a person’s daily life. Here are the categories of PTSD symptoms:

Intrusive thoughts and memories

  • Distressing and intrusive memories of the traumatic event.
  • Flashbacks, where the person feels like they are reliving the trauma.
  • Nightmares related to the trauma.
  • Intense psychological distress or physical reactions when exposed to reminders of the event.

Avoidance and Numbing

  • Avoiding people, places, activities, or situations that remind the person of the traumatic event.
  • Efforts to avoid thoughts, feelings, or conversations associated with trauma.
  • Feeling emotionally numb or detached from others.
  • Loss of interest in activities that were once enjoyable.
  • A sense of a foreshortened future, feeling like life won’t be fulfilling or meaningful.

Negative Changes in Thoughts and Mood

  • Persistent negative beliefs or expectations about oneself, others, or the world.
  • Persistent distorted thoughts about the cause or consequences of the trauma.
  • Persistent negative emotional states, such as fear, anger, guilt, shame, or horror.
  • Decreased ability to experience positive emotions.
  • Emotional numbness or feeling emotionally distant from others.

Arousal and Reactivity

  • Irritability, angry outbursts, or aggressive behavior.
  • Difficulty concentrating or focusing.
  • Hypervigilance or being constantly on guard for threats.
  • Exaggerated startle response.
  • Sleep disturbances, including trouble falling asleep, staying asleep, or having nightmares.

These symptoms can significantly disrupt a person’s daily functioning, relationships, and overall quality of life. For a diagnosis of PTSD, these symptoms must persist for more than a month and cause clinically significant distress or impairment. Additionally, the symptoms must not be due to medication, substance use, or other medical conditions.
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