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How Is PTSD Diagnosed and Treated?

How Is PTSD Diagnosed and Treated?

Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is a serious mental health condition that can develop after you experience or witness a traumatic event. This disorder was previously referred to as “shell shock” or “combat fatigue” since it so often affected war veterans. However, PTSD can happen to anyone regardless of age, gender, or race. Events that trigger PTSD often include ordeals that cause serious threat or harm such as physical or sexual abuse, an unexpected death of a loved one, an accident, war, and natural disasters. 

Many of us experience something somewhat traumatic at some point in our lives, and it may take us a while to adjust and adapt, which is a very normal process. However, PTSD causes intense feelings of helplessness, fear, and horror long after the event has passed.

PTSD can make everyday life incredibly difficult. Because of this, Venice Sanchez, MD, and the rest of our team at her practice in Newport Beach, California, want to review the basics of PTSD, including how it’s diagnosed and treated to help you determine if you’re struggling with this condition.

Symptoms of PTSD

When you have PTSD, symptoms typically start about 3 months after the traumatic event has occurred, although they can sometimes develop later. PTSD symptoms are typically divided into four categories: intrusion symptoms, avoidance symptoms, arousal/reactivity symptoms, and symptoms that affect cognition.

Intrusion symptoms

PTSD often brings intrusive thoughts along with nightmares and flashbacks of the event. You may even experience hallucinations or strong feelings of fear, especially around significant dates like the anniversary of the event.

Avoidance symptoms 

Because thoughts of the traumatic event can be so triggering, you may find yourself avoiding any association with the event including talking about it or being around situations that remind you of it.

Arousal/reactivity symptoms

Having PTSD can bring on a slough of excessive emotions such as irritability and bursts of anger. You may also find it difficult to fall asleep and be more easily startled and sensitive to potential dangers.

Symptoms that affect your cognition or mood 

This category of symptoms includes negative feelings about yourself or others, feeling detached from family and friends, difficulty recalling the event, and feeling emotionally numb.

The process of diagnosing and treating PTSD

PTSD is typically diagnosed when you have at least one intrusion symptom, one avoidance symptom, two arousal/reactivity symptoms, and two symptoms that affect mood and thinking.

When you come to see us with concerns about PTSD, we start by asking you questions about your experience and review your symptoms to see if you fit the diagnosis requirements of the condition. If Dr. Sanchez determines you do have PTSD, we can discuss your treatment options.

Treatments that are often effective at managing PTSD symptoms include psychotherapy approaches such as cognitive behavioral therapy or exposure therapy and medications such as antidepressants or anti-anxiety medications. 

Dr. Sanchez can also walk through some healthy lifestyle changes you can make like eating a healthy diet and exercising regularly to ensure treatment works to its fullest potential.

For expert PTSD diagnosis and treatment, call Dr. Sanchez at 949-269-6142 or schedule an appointment online.

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