It’s normal to be stressed after a traumatic event. But when that stress turns into lingering feelings that impact your day-to-day life, it’s time to seek help. Dr. Julie M. Hall is a psychiatrist practicing in Los Angeles who is specially trained in treating patients suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). You don’t have to go through this alone.
One of the most common symptoms of PTSD is reexperiencing the trauma. Patients report having recurring scary thoughts, bad dreams or flashbacks. You may also avoid a certain event, area, or person, because they remind you of what you went through. Patients who suffer from PTSD typically have arousal disorders, too. For instance, you may have a hard time sleeping, or get scared easily. You could even have unexplainable outbursts of anger.
Another red flag of PTSD is having a cognition or mood symptom, such as difficulty remembering important details of the traumatic event. For some patients, cognition and mood symptoms can also include feeling guilty, having negative thoughts, or losing interest in hobbies.
Because any sort of trauma will take you some time to process, it’s normal to be emotional for several days or weeks following an incident. But if your symptoms continue for over a month, you could have PTSD.
Yes. Children often don’t know how to process emotions that stem from a traumatic event. Some kids have difficulty speaking, or forget how to speak. It’s also possible that your child may reenact the tragic event during a social event or during playtime. Younger children may have bed-wetting accidents. Even if your child isn’t showing any of these signs of PTSD, pay attention to how he or she interacts with you. Children suffering from PTSD are often overly clingy with their parents or other trusted adults.
Probably. Psychotherapy, or talk therapy, can include specialized types of treatment to help with PTSD. Cognitive therapy, for instance, helps you pull out thinking habits that keep getting stuck in your head. You’ll be able to talk through recurring negative thoughts, or events related to the incident. This type of therapy is often best combined with exposure therapy.
With exposure therapy, Dr. Hall gradually exposes you to memories and situations that trigger PTSD. She’ll be there to guide you through how to deal with those emotions and responses. Psychotherapy also sometimes includes Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR). This type of therapy uses guided eye movements to help you process traumatic thoughts and memories.