Common Questions about PTSD

Dec 14, 2022
Common Questions about PTSD
If you’re constantly on edge, and feel frightened of places or people that remind you of something troubling from your past, you may have post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Even though PTSD is associated with combat veterans, anyone can get it.

Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is a mental health condition in which your brain is in a near-constant state of alert and fear, even though the initial event may have occurred years or decades in the past. Many veterans who experienced combat first-hand go on to develop PTSD. But anyone, of any age, can have PTSD.

In fact, about 6% of the adult population in the United States has PTSD at some point in their lives. If you feel like you’ve never fully recovered from a traumatic event in your near or distant past, you may have PTSD. 

At Mesquite Valley Integrated Health, Jared Brink, FPMHNP-BC, and Troy Fulton, FPMHNP-BC, and our expert mental health team diagnose and treat PTSD at our Mesa, Arizona, offices. If you suspect that you or someone you love has PTSD, you probably have questions about PTSD and what your best options are for treatment. 

What is PTSD?

Whenever you experience a traumatic event, your body floods with chemicals, such as cortisol, that tell your brain to be on high alert. These chemicals keep you focused on the danger, which means that certain portions of your brain — such as the amygdala — are highly active. 

The amygdala is sometimes referred to as the “lizard brain,” because its small shape and size resembles the brains of some dinosaurs. This ancient, primitive part of your brain is what allows you to jump out of the way of danger before you’re even aware of it.

However, when your amygdala is overactive, the other parts of your brain — including the prefrontal cortex, which controls executive function (i.e., high level thinking) — can’t be accessed in that moment. Normally, once the traumatic event is over, those “fight or flight” hormones and chemicals recede. Your brain can now function fully.

When you have PTSD, however, your brain and body either stay in that state of high alert or are easily triggered to return there. The amygdala, which also helps you process fear and remember dangerous events, can also get “stuck” in the past, constantly replaying the events so that it’s difficult or impossible to move past the trauma. 

How can I tell if I have PTSD?

A lot of people may think they have PTSD because of some trauma they’ve suffered in the past, but they may actually have another type of stress disorder. If you’ve had one or more of the following symptoms for longer than four weeks, you may have PTSD:

  • Reliving the event in nightmares or flashbacks
  • Avoiding things and people that remind you of the event
  • Having more negative feelings and thoughts after the event than before
  • Feeling on edge or always alert to danger

Usually, PTSD symptoms appear within three months of the traumatic event. However, sometimes it takes years for PTSD to surface. This may be most common in the case of a childhood trauma. 

When you have PTSD, you may not enjoy things that used to give you great pleasure. You may try to self-medicate by overusing alcohol or using recreational drugs. You may also have thoughts of suicide or self-harm. If you or someone you thinks or talks about suicide, call the Suicide & Crisis Lifeline by dialing 988. 

Why do I have PTSD?

You can develop PTSD whenever you have firsthand experience of a shocking or dangerous event, or even if you’re a witness to one. Shocking events that can trigger PTSD include:

  • Combat
  • Accidents
  • Sexual assault
  • Childhood sexual abuse
  • Other assault
  • Natural disasters
  • Death 
  • Injury

Researchers don’t yet know why some people process and move beyond trauma and others develop PTSD, but it has nothing to do with how “strong” you are. The more directly you’re exposed to danger or shock, the more likely it is you’ll develop PTSD. 

Women are more likely than men to have PTSD, and there may be a genetic component, too. Sometimes, a person can develop PTSD after a someone they love has suffered trauma or has died suddenly.

What treatments help me recover from PTSD?

Most people need a combination of treatments to help them recover from PTSD. We conduct a thorough physical and mental health exam to determine your needs, and then design a treatment plan. You may benefit from:

  • Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT)
  • Interpersonal psychotherapy
  • Antidepressants
  • Anti-anxiety medications
  • Alpha-Stim® electrotherapy
  • HeartMath® training
  • Ketamine therapy
  • Biofeedback

We may also teach you methods to relax your mind and body, including meditation and mindfulness. You may also benefit from vitamin and mineral infusions that promote relaxation and calm.

Get the help you need to move past the past. Contact our knowledgeable and supportive team for a PTSD diagnosis and treatment today by calling the office or requesting an appointment online