First, here’s some terminology. These are some commonly used words you may come across when reading about PTSD. Some of these are often misused in casual conversation or on social media, so here’s what they really mean.

PSYCHOLOGY: the scientific study of the human mind

PREFIX PSYCH- : has to do with the mind or psyche (the “software”)

PREFIX NEURO- : has to do with the nervous system and brain (the “hardware”)

PSYCHOSOMATIC : describes a physical illness caused or worsened by internal conflict or stress

SIGNS: objective indications of a disorder, observable by a doctor or person other than you

SYMPTOMS: subjective indications of a disorder, experienced by you

IDIOPATHIC: a condition for which the cause is unknown

DIFFERENTIAL DIAGNOSIS: the process of distinguishing between similar conditions

PSYCHOTHERAPY: the treatment of a disorder by psychological rather than medical means (and there are many different options)

PSYCHOSOCIAL: how social factors affect thought and behavior

MENTAL BREAKDOWN: a period of intense mental/emotional distress

REMISSION: signs and symptoms are reduced or returned to normal

Did You Know?

PTSD affects roughly 3.5% of the population and 1 in 11 people will be diagnosed with it in their lifetime (American Psychiatric Association, 2020).

After World War I it was referred to as “shell shock,” and then “combat fatigue” after World War II. It’s all in reference to a syndrome of responses one has to extreme trauma, but it is not limited to military experiences. PTSD can affect anyone who has experienced trauma. Even childbirth can cause symptoms of PTSD (Shaban, et al., 2013)!

It has been proposed that there be a separate diagnosis for “Complex PTSD” separate from PTSD, to diagnose people who have experienced chronic trauma versus one-time events (Department of Veterans Affairs, 2020).

Psychology Today allows you to search your area for therapists, read about them and what conditions they’re experienced in treating, view their accepted insurance, hours of operation, and what types of therapy they provide. You can even send them an email and find out if they’re a good match for you, before ever setting up an appointment. Search here and see what you can find! They even help you locate support groups.

The Anxiety and Depression Association of America breaks down some of the effective therapies for PTSD here, which include several different types of Cognitive-Behavioral therapy and Present-Centered Therapy. If something doesn’t work for you, try something else. There are many types of treatments because everyone’s brain is different.

EMDR stands for Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing, and has been shown to help “rewire” the brain using rapid side-to-side eye movements while recalling the trauma. According to the EMDR International Association (2020), this is becoming one of the best treatments for PTSD. Read all about it on the EMDRIA website here.

All licensed professionals will use criteria from the DSM-5 to find the right diagnosis for you. If it’s not PTSD, it might be something else, and either way you’ll be a step in the right direction.

You can visit the American Psychiatric Association’s website here and read the full description of PTSD as well as up-to-date information about the way the field of psychology evolves as it understands more about each condition. When you seek help, you create a more informed professional field. They publish the DSM, so the more they know about peoples’ experiences, the better treatment gets for everyone.

Do you suspect someone you know or love is going through an emotional crisis? The American Psychological Association can help you spot the signs and find a way to help. Read their advice here.

The Crisis Text Line is available 24/7, and they’re free and confidential. Text HOME to 741741. They tweeted “A crisis to you is a crisis to us” (@crisistextline, 2020) because that’s important to remember: your crisis situation is unique to you…and so is your journey to recovery.

The 24/7 free and confidential National Suicide Prevention Lifeline is 1-800-273-TALK. It’s there for you in English, Spanish, and with Deaf & Hard of Hearing options. Click here to chat with them online.

The Trevor Project is a 24/7 suicide prevention hotline for LGBT+ youth (under age 25). Text START to 678678 and a crisis counselor will be there for you. Free and confidential, of course.

Your life is always worth saving.

All Cited Literature and References:

American Psychological Association. (2013). How to Help in an Emotional Crisis. Washington DC: Author. Retrieved from https://www.apa.org/topics/help-emotional-crisis

American Psychiatric Association. (2013). Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (5th ed.). Washington, DC: Author.

De Bellis, M. D., Woolley, D. P., & Hooper, S. R. (2013). Neuropsychological findings in pediatric maltreatment: relationship of PTSD, dissociative symptoms, and abuse/neglect indices to neurocognitive outcomes. Child maltreatment18(3), 171–183. https://doi.org/10.1177/1077559513497420

Borgini, M. (2010). Getting to the crux of bruxism. Psychology Today. New York, NY: Author. Retrieved from https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/overcoming-pain/201001/getting-the-crux-bruxism

Denicoff K.D., et al. (2000). Validation of the prospective NIMH-Life-Chart Method (NIMH-LCMTM-p) for longitudinal assessment of bipolar illness. Psychological Medicine, 30(6), p. 1391-1397. doi: 10.1017/s0033291799002810

Department of Veterans Affairs. (2020). Complex PTSD. Washington, DC: Author. Retrieved from https://www.ptsd.va.gov/professional/treat/essentials/complex_ptsd.asp

EMDR International Association. (2020). EMDR and PTSD. Austin, TX: Author. Retrieved from https://www.emdria.org/about-emdr-therapy/emdr-and-ptsd/

Ng, Q. X., Soh, A.Y.S., Loke, W., Venkatanarayanan, N., Lim, D.Y., & Yeo, W. S. (2019). Systematic review with meta-analysis: The association between post-traumatic stress disorder and irritable bowel syndrome. J Gastroenterol Hepatol, 34(1), p.68‐73. doi: 10.1111/jgh.14446

Psychology Today. (2020). Find a Therapist. New York, NY: Author. Retrieved from https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/therapists

Roberts, A., Rosario, M., Corliss, H., Koenen, K. C. & Austin, S. B. (2012). Elevated risk of posttraumatic stress in sexual minority youths: Mediation by childhood abuse and gender nonconformity. American Journal of Public Health, 102, p. 1587-1593. https://doi.org/10.2105/AJPH.2011.300530

Shaban, Z., Dolatian, M., Shams, J., Alavi-Majd, H., Mahmoodi, Z., & Sajjadi, H. (2013). Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) following childbirth: Prevalence and contributing factors. Iranian Red Crescent Medical Journal15(3), 177–182. https://doi.org/10.5812/ircmj.2312

Suicide Prevention Lifeline. (2020). Contact the Lifeline. Rockville, MD: Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. Retrieved from https://suicidepreventionlifeline.org

Taylor, M. (2015). Bruxism in the neurology clinic. Practical Neurology. London, UK: BMJ Publishing Group. Retrieved from https://practicalneurology.com/articles/2015-sept/bruxism-in-the-neurology-clinic

Thomas, M. (2014). Treatment of sleep disturbances in post-traumatic stress disorder. Mental Health Clinician, 4(2), p. 91-97. https://doi.org/10.9740/mhc.n190104

Yehuda, R., Lehrner, A., & Rosenbaum, T. (2015). PTSD and sexual dysfunction in men and women. Journal of Sexual Medicine, 12, p. 1107–1119. doi: 10.1111/jsm.12856