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  • Karen McPhail, RN, MSN

Identifying and Navigating Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)

Post Traumatic Stress Disorder or PTSD affects 3.6% of the U.S. adult population—about 9 million individuals. About 37% of those diagnosed with PTSD are classified as having severe symptoms. Women are significantly more likely to experience PTSD than men (NAMI). PTSD can occur at any age. Although many older adults and those with chronic conditions are at greater risk for falls and injuries, they are often times not assessed or treated for PTSD even when obvious symptoms are present. The focus post injury is usually on strengthening, mobility, and basic functionality, but emotional aspects and the potential for PTSD is routinely missed. In these patient populations this sadly results in negative consequences that overtime effect overall health and functionality. So how does one monitor for, recognize, and understand treatment options for PTSD?

Let’s start by understanding the basics of PTSD. PTSD is a mental health condition that is triggered by a traumatic or upsetting event. This can be as simple as a fall outside or a caregiver witnessing this event. The severity of impact of an event is clearly individual and depends upon a variety of factors. What one may consider a mild event may be traumatic to another, so never judge or underestimate.

  • Some of the common symptoms of PTSD include persistent:

  • Nightmares

  • Anxiety or anxiety / panic attacks

  • Sleeping difficulties

  • Cognitive symptoms - recall issues, depression symptoms, feelings of dread or worry

  • Outbursts, anger, or mood swings

  • Avoidance and social withdrawal

  • Flashbacks to the event that may become more frequent, impact functionality, become uncontrollable or difficult to manage.

Adjustment is of course normal after a traumatic event and the length of time in terms of coping is clearly individual and varies. However, when coping issues emerge and are not resolving in a reasonable time period, continue to worsen, or become a part of ones daily routine effecting daily functionality, mood, socialization, etc then it is time to seek guidance and support.

Receiving treatment for PTSD when symptoms are present is the key to reducing symptoms and impacting health and overall function. Start off by seeking evaluation from your primary care physician and / or from a care manager. Counseling, psychotherapy will be advised as a primary treatment to help the individual in positively moving forward. The goal of treatment is to help the individual to develop better coping skills, be given tools to navigate past issues, and to thus regain a sense of control over their life. Sometimes issues prior to a traumatic event, such as anxiety, depression, substance abuse add to and come to the surface as a part of PTSD treatment. Medications may be needed in addition to therapy for some individuals based on this or other factors.

If you or a loved one is experiencing PTSD please reach out as we are here to help!






Mayo clinic

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