You’ve probably heard about post-traumatic stress disorder, also known as PTSD. This condition is a lot more complex than most people realize. Our goal is to help you gain a deeper understanding of this challenging condition that impacts millions of people. With greater insight into PTSD, you’ll be better equipped to support loved ones who live with it or manage your symptoms.

What Is Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)?

Post-traumatic stress disorder, or PTSD is a mental health condition triggered by experiencing or witnessing a terrifying event. Symptoms may include flashbacks, nightmares, and severe anxiety, as well as uncontrollable thoughts about the event.

According to Psychology Today;
Statistics suggest a lifetime estimate of approximately 6.8% for PTSD diagnosis, which is a small portion relative to those who experience trauma. On average, approximately 7 out of 100 people will go on to develop symptoms associated with PTSD after experiencing a significant traumatic event, with an average estimate of 7.5 million to 8 million people per year developing the disorder.

Traumatic Events

Traumatic events that can trigger PTSD include:

  • Violent personal assaults, such as rape or mugging
  • Natural disasters or accidents
  • Severe injuries or life-threatening medical emergencies
  • Witnessing death or serious injury
  • Military combat

Symptoms and Diagnosis of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder

The symptoms typically start within 3 months of the event, but sometimes emerge years later.

Some common signs of PTSD include:

Re-experiencing the trauma

You may have upsetting memories, flashbacks, or nightmares about the event. Cues in the environment can trigger painful memories, like a loud noise reminding you of an explosion. These flashbacks and intrusive thoughts can make you feel like you’re reliving the trauma all over again.

Avoiding reminders of the trauma

You may avoid people, places, or situations that remind you of the traumatic event. This can include avoiding talking about the trauma or dissociating from your memories or feelings about it. This avoidance can disrupt your life and relationships.

Negative changes in thinking and mood

PTSD often causes negative changes in the way you think and feel about yourself and the world. You may have trouble sleeping or concentrating, feel irritable or on edge, or have trouble feeling positive emotions. You may feel hopeless, numb or detached from loved ones.


You may feel jittery or on guard and react strongly to sudden noises or movements. This heightened arousal includes insomnia, difficulty concentrating, irritability, and difficulty falling or staying asleep.

To be diagnosed with PTSD, you must have all of the above symptoms (re-experiencing, avoidance, negative changes in mood and thinking, and hyperarousal) for at least 1 month. A doctor will evaluate your symptoms and rule out other possible conditions. PTSD is often treated with therapy, medication, or a combination of the two. The good news is that with proper treatment, PTSD is very manageable.

Common Causes and Triggers of PTSD

Traumatic Events

The most common cause of PTSD is experiencing or witnessing a traumatic, life-threatening event. Events like combat exposure, sexual assault, physical assault, robbery, vehicular accidents, or natural disasters can trigger PTSD. Even learning about a traumatic event happening to a close family member or friend can lead to PTSD.

Head Injuries

Head injuries that cause damage to the hippocampus – the part of the brain involved in memory and emotional regulation – may increase the risk of developing PTSD. Severe head injuries can impact your ability to process traumatic events, making symptoms of PTSD more likely.

Family History

Genetics may play a role in PTSD. If you have close family members with PTSD, you are more prone to developing it yourself after trauma. Certain variants of genes that regulate the stress hormone cortisol may make some individuals more susceptible to PTSD.

Mental Health Issues

Pre-existing conditions like anxiety, depression, or panic attacks can increase your vulnerability to PTSD. If you already struggle with managing stress or negative emotions, trauma can push you over the edge into PTSD. Substance abuse problems are also a risk factor, as drugs and alcohol negatively impact your ability to cope in healthy ways.

PTSD can be a devastating disorder, but the good news is with proper treatment like counseling, medication, lifestyle changes and a strong support system, people can and do recover. Understanding the causes and triggers is the first step towards learning how to better manage symptoms and find hope.

Post-traumatic stress disorder and domestic violence

Victims of domestic violence are especially susceptible to developing PTSD.

Living in a constant state of fear and anxiety

When you’re in an abusive relationship, you live in a constant state of fear and anxiety over when the next violent episode may occur and how severe it might be. This prolonged exposure to trauma causes severe stress that often continues even after leaving the relationship.

Reliving the trauma through flashbacks and nightmares

PTSD from domestic violence may involve reliving the traumatic events through flashbacks, memories, and nightmares. Cues in your environment like sounds, images or smells can trigger these flashbacks, making you feel like the abuse is happening all over again.

Avoiding reminders of the abuse

You may avoid people, places or things that remind you of the abuse. This can include isolating yourself from others, or avoiding talking about the trauma. While these avoidance behaviors may feel protective in the short term, they prevent you from processing the trauma and moving on from it.

Hypervigilance and difficulty concentrating

Victims of domestic violence with PTSD are often hypervigilant, on constant alert for signs of danger. This makes it difficult to concentrate or relax. You may have trouble sleeping or experience irritability, difficulty concentrating, and an exaggerated startle response.

Depression, anxiety, and physical issues

Along with PTSD, you may struggle with depression, anxiety, low self-esteem and physical health issues like chronic pain, digestive problems and high blood pressure. The trauma of abuse, combined with the lasting impacts of PTSD, can significantly impact both your mental and physical well-being.

The good news is PTSD and other issues related to domestic violence are treatable. Speaking to a mental health professional about your experiences and symptoms is critical to the healing process. Treatment options like psychotherapy, medication, support groups, and self-care strategies can help you overcome your trauma and build a healthy, happy life free from abuse.

Post-traumatic stress disorder: acute vs chronic

PTSD can be acute, lasting less than three months, or chronic, lasting longer than three months.

Acute PTSD occurs within the first three months after a traumatic event. Symptoms are most severe at the beginning and often improve over the following weeks and months. Acute PTSD can resolve on its own over time with the support of loved ones. However, some people may need professional counseling or therapy to work through the trauma.

Chronic PTSD lasts longer than three months and requires treatment. Symptoms tend to be more severe and long-lasting. Without treatment, chronic PTSD can significantly disrupt your life and relationships. Treatment options include counseling, medication, or a combination of the two.

Post-traumatic stress disorder and panic attacks

PTSD and panic attacks are closely linked. Panic attacks are sudden feelings of extreme anxiety and fear. If you have PTSD, you may experience panic attacks when you’re exposed to reminders of the traumatic event. These panic attacks can feel terrifying and uncontrollable.

Triggers and symptoms

Triggers for PTSD panic attacks include sights, sounds, smells, or thoughts that remind you of the trauma. Symptoms may include a racing heartbeat, sweating, trembling, shortness of breath, chest pain, dizziness, or feeling detached from reality. The panic attack can cause a strong urge to escape from the situation that triggered it.


Treatment for PTSD-related panic attacks typically involves psychotherapy, such as exposure therapy, cognitive restructuring, or anxiety management techniques. Exposure therapy helps desensitize you to trauma reminders in a controlled setting. Cognitive restructuring challenges irrational thoughts about the trauma. Relaxation and deep breathing techniques can help lower anxiety and prevent attacks.

Medication may also be helpful for some. Antidepressants called SSRIs are commonly used, as are anti-anxiety medications called benzodiazepines. However, benzodiazepines should only be used short-term due to the risk of dependence.

The most important thing is not to avoid trauma reminders and panic triggers altogether. While limiting exposure in the short term may feel better, avoidance prevents you from learning that the triggers are not dangerous and that the panic will subside. With treatment and practice, panic attacks become less frequent and intense over time. While PTSD cannot be cured, it can be successfully managed.

The key is recognizing that panic attacks themselves are not dangerous, even if the symptoms are frightening and intense. Staying calm, using relaxation techniques and reminding yourself that the attack will pass can help prevent the panic from escalating. With work and patience, PTSD panic attacks can get better.

Long-term effects of post-traumatic stress disorder

Living with PTSD over an extended period of time can take a major toll on your health and quality of life. The persistent feelings of anxiety, stress, and fear can slowly chip away at your wellbeing and happiness. Some of the damaging long-term impacts of PTSD include:

Social isolation. The fear, anxiety, and hypervigilance that come with PTSD can make social interactions extremely difficult and distressing. Many people with chronic PTSD withdraw from friends and family and avoid social situations. This loneliness and lack of support often make symptoms worse over time.

Insomnia and sleep issues. PTSD frequently causes sleep problems like insomnia, nightmares, and restless sleep. Over years, lack of quality sleep can lead to fatigue, impaired memory and focus, weight gain, and even more serious health issues. Establishing a calming pre-sleep routine and talking to your doctor about treatment options for PTSD-related sleep problems is important.

Chronic pain. The physical stress and tension associated with PTSD may manifest as chronic pain, especially muscle and joint pain. PTSD can also exacerbate the perception of pain. Seeking counseling or cognitive behavioral therapy specifically focused on chronic pain may provide some relief. Yoga, massage, and acupuncture are also helpful for many people.

Feelings of guilt and shame. For those with PTSD stemming from traumatic events like combat, assault, or disasters, feelings of guilt, shame, and self-blame are common and may worsen over time without treatment. Speaking with a trauma-informed therapist can help to challenge negative beliefs, process painful emotions, and find self-forgiveness and inner peace.

Substance abuse. Some individuals with long-term, untreated PTSD may turn to drugs or alcohol to self-medicate and numb painful symptoms. This maladaptive coping mechanism only makes the underlying issues worse and can lead to addiction and life-threatening health issues. Getting comprehensive treatment for both PTSD and any substance use disorders is critical.

With professional treatment, a strong support system, self-care, and healthy coping strategies, the damaging long-term impacts of PTSD can be managed and minimized. The sooner you get help, the less chance PTSD has to take control over your life.

Treatment Options for PTSD

The good news is there are many effective treatments for PTSD. The most common options include:

Psychotherapy, or talk therapy, has been shown to be very effective for PTSD. Two types in particular, cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) and exposure therapy, are recommended as first-line treatments. CBT helps you challenge negative thought patterns related to the trauma, while exposure therapy helps desensitize you to traumatic memories through controlled exposure. Both treatments are often done with a licensed therapist.

Other treatments include:

  • Medication: Antidepressants and anti-anxiety medications may be used to help manage symptoms like depression, anxiety, and insomnia. However, medication alone is usually not enough and works best when combined with psychotherapy.
  • Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR): EMDR uses eye movements to help process traumatic memories and reduce their distressing effect. It is thought to work by helping the brain reprocess traumatic memories into more normal memories that no longer trigger strong emotional and physical reactions.
  • Residential treatment programs: For severe PTSD, residential rehab may provide intensive, comprehensive treatment. Programs like Still Mind Residential Mental Health Rehab Center offer trauma-focused therapies, medication management, coping strategies, and aftercare planning all under one roof. The structured and supportive environment can be very helpful for recovery.
  • Self-care strategies: Exercise, stress management, and social support can help manage symptoms. Activities like yoga, meditation, spending time with others, and avoiding alcohol/ drugs are recommended.

The most effective approach is often a combination of professional treatment and self-care strategies tailored to your individual needs. With time and proper treatment, many people with PTSD can significantly improve and go on to live healthy, happy lives. The road to recovery may not always be straightforward, but there are many resources available to help you along the way.

Living With PTSD: Coping Strategies and Support

Post-traumatic stress disorder can significantly impact your day-to-day life. Having PTSD means dealing with traumatic memories and symptoms that feel out of your control. The good news is some effective strategies and treatments can help you cope and find relief.

Connecting with others who understand what you’re going through can help combat feelings of isolation. Support groups, whether in-person or online, allow you to share your experiences and provide empathy. Speaking with a therapist, counselor or mental health professional provides professional support. Cognitive behavioral therapy, exposure therapy, and EMDR are evidence-based treatments for PTSD.

Practicing self-care is vital. Exercise, mindfulness practices like yoga or meditation, spending time in nature and maintaining a healthy diet can help reduce symptoms. Staying occupied and distracted can prevent you from dwelling on traumatic memories. Engage in hobbies, social interactions and tasks that you find meaningful or enjoyable.

Be gentle with yourself and avoid negative self-talk. PTSD is not a sign of weakness. Acknowledge your triggers and limits so you can avoid them when possible. When symptoms flare up, use coping strategies to help de-escalate your distress like deep breathing, journaling or calling a friend. You cannot eliminate triggers, but you can learn to better cope with them.

Educate your close ones about PTSD and how they can support you. Let them know how to recognize when your symptoms are worsening and the best way to help. Avoiding drugs and alcohol is also important, as these can intensify symptoms and negatively interact with any medications.

PTSD can be managed, even if it may never completely go away. By using effective strategies and surrounding yourself with people who understand, you can go on to live a happy, fulfilling life despite your diagnosis. With time and effort, PTSD will become easier to live with.


The road to recovery from PTSD can feel long and daunting, but you have so much strength inside you. Take things one step at a time, be patient with yourself, and know that many resources and people who want to help. Your experiences do not define you, and there is light ahead. Staying connected to family, friends, professionals, and support groups will help you feel empowered in this journey. While the path may not always be easy, have faith that you can get through the dark times and come out the other side. You are brave. You are resilient. And you deserve to feel whole again.

We at Still Mind Residential Mental Health Rehab Center can help you understand your condition, develop coping strategies, and find relief from distressing symptoms. Treatment may involve exposure therapy, where you confront traumatic memories in a controlled setting. Cognitive behavioral therapy, cognitive processing therapy helps you challenge and modify unhelpful thoughts related to the trauma. Eye movement desensitization and reprocessing (EMDR) therapy combines exposure therapy with guided eye movements to help process traumatic memories. Call us now to learn more.
You are not alone.


Is there an ICD-10 code for PTSD?

2024 ICD-10-CM Diagnosis Code F43. 1: Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)