Post-traumatic Stress Disorder – Symptoms, Treatment

Post-traumatic stress disorder is a mental disorder that arises as a result of strong stressors, most often a traumatic situation. It can occur as a result of experiencing or witnessing events such as war, fire, situations related to physical and sexual violence. It manifests itself in anxiety, depression and dementia. The treatment uses cognitive-behavioral psychotherapy, and when it does not bring relief, pharmacotherapy is introduced.

PTSD – symptoms

Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is a mental disorder belonging to the group of anxiety disorders, resulting from stress factors. According to the classification of mental and behavioral disorders, the ICD-10 is one of the reactions that occur following a traumatic event. These are traumatic experiences, mainly related to the threat to one’s own life or that of a loved one, endangering the physical or mental integrity (e.g. during natural disasters, warfare, terrorist attacks, fires, sexual and physical violence). Most often, these are situations that cannot be predicted and cannot be properly prepared. It is estimated that PTSD may affect as much as 6 percent of the world’s population. Post-traumatic stress disorder usually affects rape victims, soldiers, participating in military operations.

Post-traumatic stress disorder – how long does it last?

Post-traumatic stress disorder is very diverse and has an individual course. However, according to the assumptions and classification of the ICD-10, PTSD is distinguished:

acute, when the duration of symptoms is less than three months;

chronic, if the duration of the symptoms is three months or more;

with delayed onset if the onset of symptoms occurs at least six months after the stressor (traumatic experience) was triggered.

Diagnosis of PTSD according to ICD-10 classification and according to the symptomatic criteria takes place when they are met within six months of the traumatic event, but exceptions are allowed. When symptoms persist for a long time, the chronic sequelae of devastating stress (occurring many years after the injury) should be qualified as a permanent personality change.

Post-traumatic stress disorder – treatment

In the treatment of PTSD, complex therapy is used, consisting in the use of several groups of drugs and both individual and group psychotherapy. TMS therapy is increasingly used to treat PTSD. There are also cases where the symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder pass by themselves after a while, but the consequences can be serious, so they should not be taken lightly. Disturbing symptoms should be consulted with a psychiatrist or psychotherapist. The diagnosis is made after an interview with the patient, sometimes also with people from his close environment. An effective method of PTSD treatment is cognitive-behavioral psychotherapy, which consists in familiarizing the patient with traumatic situations and interpreting them anew. 

Additionally, exposure therapy is also used, the aim of which is to reduce anxiety in the process of recalling memories of a drastic experience in the presence of the therapist. If such a procedure does not bring the expected results, pharmacotherapy is used. Then the doctor prescribes antidepressants, in particular selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors. After properly conducted psychotherapy, most patients return to normal life.