Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is a mental health condition that’s triggered by a terrifying event — either experiencing it or witnessing it. Symptoms may include flashbacks, nightmares and severe anxiety, as well as uncontrollable thoughts about the event. If you think you are suffering from PTSD contact us at our Temecula, CA offices as soon as you can. The contact information is at the bottom of this page.
Many people who go through traumatic events have difficulty adjusting and coping for a while, but they don’t have PTSD — with time and good self-care, they usually get better. But if the symptoms get worse or last for months or even years and interfere with your functioning, you may have PTSD.
Post-traumatic stress disorder symptoms may start within three months of a traumatic event, but sometimes symptoms may not appear until years after the event. These symptoms cause significant problems in social or work situations and in relationships.
PTSD symptoms are generally grouped into four types: intrusive memories, avoidance, negative changes in thinking and mood, or changes in emotional reactions.
Symptoms of intrusive memories may include:
- Recurrent, unwanted distressing memories of the traumatic event
- Reliving the traumatic event as if it were happening again (flashbacks)
- Upsetting dreams about the traumatic event
- Severe emotional distress or physical reactions to something that reminds you of the event
Symptoms of avoidance may include:
- Trying to avoid thinking or talking about the traumatic event
- Avoiding places, activities or people that remind you of the traumatic event
Negative changes in thinking and mood
Symptoms of negative changes in thinking and mood may include:
- Negative feelings about yourself or other people
- Inability to experience positive emotions
- Feeling emotionally numb
- Lack of interest in activities you once enjoyed
- Hopelessness about the future
- Memory problems, including not remembering important aspects of the traumatic event
- Difficulty maintaining close relationships
Changes in emotional reactions
Symptoms of changes in emotional reactions (also called arousal symptoms) may include:
- Irritability, angry outbursts or aggressive behavior
- Always being on guard for danger
- Overwhelming guilt or shame
- Self-destructive behavior, such as drinking too much or driving too fast
- Trouble concentrating
- Trouble sleeping
- Being easily startled or frightened
Intensity of symptoms
PTSD symptoms can vary in intensity over time. You may have more PTSD symptoms when you’re stressed in general, or when you run into reminders of what you went through. For example, you may hear a car backfire and relive combat experiences. Or you may see a report on the news about a sexual assault and feel overcome by memories of your own assault.
You can develop post-traumatic stress disorder when you go through, see or learn about an event involving actual or threatened death, serious injury or sexual violation.
Doctors aren’t sure why some people get PTSD. As with most mental health problems, PTSD is probably caused by a complex mix of:
- Inherited mental health risks, such as an increased risk of anxiety and depression
- Life experiences, including the amount and severity of trauma you’ve gone through since early childhood
- Inherited aspects of your personality — often called your temperament
- The way your brain regulates the chemicals and hormones your body releases in response to stres
People of all ages can have post-traumatic stress disorder. However, some factors may make you more likely to develop PTSD after a traumatic event, such as:
- Experiencing intense or long-lasting trauma
- Having experienced other trauma earlier in life, including childhood abuse or neglect
- Having a job that increases your risk of being exposed to traumatic events, such as military personnel and first responders
- Having other mental health problems, such as anxiety or depression
- Lacking a good support system of family and friends
- Having biological (blood) relatives with mental health problems, including PTSD or depression
Kinds of traumatic events
The most common events leading to the development of PTSD include:
- Combat exposure
- Childhood neglect and physical abuse
- Sexual assault
- Physical attack
- Being threatened with a weapon
Many other traumatic events also can lead to PTSD, such as fire, natural disaster, mugging, robbery, car accident, plane crash, torture, kidnapping, life-threatening medical diagnosis, terrorist attack, and other extreme or life-threatening events.
Post-traumatic stress disorder can disrupt your whole life: your job, your relationships, your health and your enjoyment of everyday activities.
Having PTSD also may increase your risk of other mental health problems, such as:
- Depression and anxiety
- Issues with drugs or alcohol use
- Eating disorders
- Suicidal thoughts and actions
Preparing for your appointment
If you think you may have post-traumatic stress disorder, make an appointment with a skilled therapist at our Temecula, CA offices. Here’s some information to help you prepare for your appointment, and what to expect.
What you can do
Before your appointment, make a list of:
- Any symptoms you’ve been experiencing, and for how long.
- Key personal information, especially events or experiences — even in your distant past — that have made you feel intense fear, helplessness or horror. It will help your therapist to know if there are memories you can’t directly access without feeling an overwhelming need to push them out of your mind.
- Take a trusted family member or friend along, if possible. Sometimes it can be difficult to remember all the information provided to you.
What to expect from your therapist
Your therapist is likely to ask you a number of questions. Be ready to answer them to reserve time to go over any points you want to focus on. Your therapist may ask:
- What are your symptoms?
- When did you or your loved ones first notice your symptoms?
- Have you ever experienced or witnessed an event that was life-threatening to you or someone else?
- Have you ever been physically, sexually or emotionally harmed?
- Do you have disturbing thoughts, memories or nightmares of the trauma you experienced?
- Do you ever feel as if you’re reliving the traumatic event, through flashbacks or hallucinations?
- Do you avoid certain people, places or situations that remind you of the traumatic experience?
- Have you lost interest in things or felt numb?
- Do you feel jumpy, on guard or easily startled?
- Do you frequently feel irritable or angry?
- Are you having trouble sleeping?
- Is anything happening in your life right now that’s making you feel unsafe?
- Have you been having any problems at school, work or in your personal relationships?
- Have you ever thought about harming yourself or others?
- Do you drink alcohol or use illegal drugs? How often?
- Have you been treated for other psychiatric symptoms or mental illness in the past? If yes, what type of therapy was most helpful?
Coping and support
The person you love may seem like a different person than you knew before the trauma — angry and irritable, for example, or withdrawn and depressed. PTSD can significantly strain the emotional and mental health of loved ones and friends.
Hearing about the trauma that led to your loved one’s PTSD may be painful for you and even cause you to relive difficult events. You may find yourself avoiding his or her attempts to talk about the trauma or feeling hopeless that your loved one will get better. At the same time, you may feel guilty that you can’t fix your loved one or hurry up the process of healing.
Remember that you can’t change someone. However, you can contact Aspire Wellness and speak to a qualified therapist who can provide support and teach you appropriate coping methods for managing your symptoms of PTSD
Schedule An Appointment
If you would like to meet or talk with one of our clinicians about PTSD treatment call our Temecula, CA office at (951) 363-3150, or click below to fill out our secure online form.