Post-traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) is a diagnosis of a mental health condition that usually describes individuals who have been exposed to a traumatic event or a series of traumatic experiences (like in an abusive relationship) and display a cluster of symptoms such as the following:
- Intrusion – reoccurring, involuntary intrusive thoughts, memories, nightmares, flashbacks, or increased psychological reactivity to events that remind one of the trauma
- Avoidance – persistent, effortful avoidance of trauma related thoughts or feelings and external reminders like places or people etc.
- Negative alterations in cognition and mood – an inability to recall key features of the traumatic event, persistent negative beliefs about oneself or the world, distorted feelings of blame, persistent negative emotions, diminished interest in activities, feeling alienated, or an inability to experience positive emotions
- Alterations in arousal and reactivity – becoming more irritable, aggressive, self-destructive, reckless, hypervigilant, or having an exaggerated startle response, trouble concentrating, or sleep disturbances
With PTSD or complex PTSD, it is not uncommon for people to have dissociative symptoms which means that people experience feelings of depersonalization about the event (feeling like it didn’t happen to me), or derealization (feeling like it wasn’t really real).
The above symptoms typically have to last more than one month and result in significant distress or impairment to result in a diagnosis. Also, another criteria for diagnosis is that they cannot be due to another medical condition, substance abuse or illness.
PTSD can be diagnosed by a psychologist, however despite it’s severe impact on affected individuals it is not uncommon for the diagnosis to occur many months if not years after the event. In fact, many individuals remain undiagnosed.
Regardless of whether or not you have been diagnosed with PTSD, EMDR has been proven to be an effective therapy for resolving trauma and PTSD.
American Psychiatric Association. (2013) Diagnostic and statistical manual of mental disorders, (5th ed.). Washington, DC: Author.
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