Understanding PTSD: Everything You Need to Know


Have you ever felt like a past traumatic event was replaying in your mind over and over again, making it nearly impossible to focus on anything else? If so, you may be experiencing symptoms of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, commonly known as PTSD. It is a serious anxiety disorder often triggered by highly distressing or frightening events. PTSD can significantly impact a person’s daily life, causing nightmares, flashbacks, and a constant feeling of danger or fear.

Here at DBT of South Jersey, we understand this struggle. We’ve seen how even the most routine activities can become a huge burden to those living with PTSD. The persistent feeling of tension, the interrupted sleep patterns, and the constant sense of guilt – ingredients of a painful cocktail that effaces joy from one’s life.

To grasp the extent of this burden, consider these quick facts about PTSD:

  • PTSD is an anxiety disorder caused by highly stressful, frightening, or distressing events.
  • Symptoms include flashbacks, nightmares, feelings of isolation, irritability, guilt, and difficulty concentrating.
  • While any traumatic event can lead to PTSD, the most common ones include serious accidents, personal assaults, health problems, and childbirth experiences.
  • People who repeatedly experience traumatic situations may develop a more severe form of PTSD known as complex PTSD.
  • PTSD can be treated with various therapeutic approaches and medications.

Infographic showing PTSD facts and figures - ptsd infographic pillar-4-steps

PTSD isn’t just about the painful symptoms; it’s about the rippling effect it has on a person’s life and relationships. Understanding PTSD is the first step towards reclaiming your life from its grip, and we’re here to guide you through it. Let’s delve into the details of PTSD – its causes, symptoms, effects, and treatments – to better understand and manage this condition. Life doesn’t have to be overshadowed by past traumas. There is a way to navigate towards light and balance.

Understanding the Causes and Risk Factors of PTSD

The Role of Traumatic Events in PTSD

The primary cause of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is exposure to a traumatic event. These events can range from physical or sexual assault, accidents, disasters, to combat experiences for veterans, and more traumatic circumstances. PTSD can develop when a person goes through, witnesses, or even learns about an event involving actual or threatened death, serious injury, or sexual violation.

However, it’s important to note that not everyone who experiences such an event will develop PTSD. The disorder only develops in some people, and the reasons are as unique as the individuals themselves.

Risk Factors for Developing PTSD

While exposure to a traumatic event is the main trigger for PTSD, there are several risk factors that can increase a person’s likelihood of developing the disorder. These include intense or long-lasting trauma, having experienced other trauma earlier in life such as childhood abuse, and having a job that increases the risk of being exposed to traumatic events, such as military personnel and first responders.

In addition, having other mental health problems, such as anxiety or depression, can also increase the risk. Substance misuse, like excess drinking or drug use, is another factor. Lack of a solid support system of family and friends can leave a person more vulnerable, as can having blood relatives with mental health problems, including anxiety or depression.

Interestingly, it’s not just the severity and nature of the traumatic event that can contribute to PTSD. Some individuals may be genetically predisposed to the disorder. Certain features of one’s personality, often referred to as temperament, and the way the brain regulates the chemicals and hormones released in response to stress, can also play a role.

At DBT of South Jersey, we understand that PTSD is a multifaceted disorder. It’s not just about what you’ve experienced, but also about who you are, your life circumstances, and your biological makeup. Our team, led by our expert Shaelene Lauriano Kite, is dedicated to helping you navigate your unique path to recovery.

Recognizing the Symptoms of PTSD

Just like any other mental health condition, recognizing the symptoms of PTSD is the first step towards getting the right help. These symptoms usually begin within 3 months of the traumatic event, but they can also emerge later. The symptoms must be severe enough to interfere with daily life, such as relationships or work, and they must be unrelated to medication, substance use, or other illnesses.

Re-experiencing Symptoms

Re-experiencing symptoms are intrusive and involuntary. They force the person to relive the traumatic event over and over again. This can take the form of:

  • Experiencing flashbacks—reliving the traumatic event, including physical symptoms such as a racing heart or sweating
  • Having recurring memories or dreams related to the event
  • Having distressing thoughts
  • Experiencing physical signs of stress

These symptoms can be triggered by thoughts, feelings, words, objects, or situations that are reminders of the event.

Avoidance Symptoms

Avoidance symptoms force the person to change their routines to keep away from reminders of the traumatic event. This can include:

  • Staying away from places, events, or objects that are reminders of the traumatic experience
  • Avoiding thoughts or feelings related to the traumatic event

For instance, some people may avoid driving or riding in a car after a serious car accident.

Arousal and Reactivity Symptoms

Arousal symptoms are often constant and can lead to feelings of stress and anger. They can interfere with parts of daily life, such as sleeping, eating, or concentrating. Arousal symptoms include:

  • Being easily startled
  • Feeling tense, on guard, or on edge
  • Having difficulty concentrating
  • Having difficulty falling asleep or staying asleep
  • Feeling irritable and having angry or aggressive outbursts
  • Engaging in risky, reckless, or destructive behavior

Cognition and Mood Symptoms

Cognition and mood symptoms can begin or worsen after the traumatic event. They can lead a person to feel detached from friends or family members. These symptoms include:

  • Having trouble remembering key features of the traumatic event
  • Having negative thoughts about oneself or the world
  • Having exaggerated feelings of blame directed toward oneself or others
  • Having ongoing negative emotions, such as fear, anger, guilt, or shame
  • Losing interest in enjoyable activities
  • Having feelings of social isolation
  • Having difficulty feeling positive emotions, such as happiness or satisfaction

At DBT of South Jersey, we have experienced mental health professionals who can help you identify these symptoms and provide the necessary support. It’s crucial to reach out for help if you or someone you know is experiencing these symptoms.

The Impact of PTSD on a Person’s Life

Living with PTSD is a challenging journey that can significantly affect every aspect of a person’s life. From their mental health to their relationships and ability to function in day-to-day activities, PTSD can be profoundly disruptive. Let’s explore how PTSD changes a person and the potential long-term effects of the disorder.

How PTSD Changes a Person

Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) can disrupt your entire life, impacting your job, relationships, physical health, and general enjoyment of everyday activities. It’s not just about reliving the traumatic event through nightmares and flashbacks, but also about dealing with feelings of isolation, irritability, and guilt. PTSD can even make it difficult for you to sleep, concentrate, and can lead to risky behavior.

For instance, a person with PTSD might feel constantly on guard, easily startled, or struggle with intense episodes of fear or anxiety. These symptoms can lead to avoidance behavior, where the person tries to avoid situations, people, or thoughts that remind them of the traumatic event, further isolating them and potentially worsening their symptoms.

At DBT of South Jersey, we’ve seen firsthand how PTSD can change a person’s life. But we’ve also seen how the right support and treatment can help individuals regain control and move forward.

The Long-Term Effects of PTSD

If left untreated, the impact of PTSD can linger for many years. It’s not just the immediate symptoms that are concerning, but also the long-term effects of living with this disorder.

PTSD may increase the risk of other mental health issues, such as depression, anxiety, and issues with drugs or alcohol use. It can also lead to physical health problems, including cardiovascular disease, chronic pain, and sleep disorders.

Furthermore, PTSD can lead to suicidal thoughts and actions. If you or someone you know is in danger of suicide, it’s crucial to seek help immediately. In the U.S., you can reach the 988 Suicide & Crisis Lifeline by calling or texting 988 any time of the day or week. Their services are free and confidential.

The long-term effects of PTSD underscore the importance of early intervention and treatment. The sooner a person with PTSD receives help, the better their chances of reducing symptoms and improving their quality of life. And that’s precisely what we strive for at DBT of South Jersey.

PTSD is not a life sentence. With the right support and treatment, it is entirely possible to manage the symptoms and lead a fulfilling, healthy life.

Treatment Options for PTSD

When it comes to treating PTSD, there are several options available, and the best treatment plan often involves a combination of therapies. Let’s explore some of these treatments in more detail.

Psychotherapy for PTSD

Psychotherapy, also known as talk therapy, is a primary treatment for PTSD. It involves discussing your experiences and emotions with a trained mental health professional. This process can help you understand and manage your symptoms, and it often includes learning skills to identify triggers and manage symptoms.

One common method used within psychotherapy is cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT). CBT includes techniques like exposure therapy, which helps individuals manage their fear by gradually exposing them to the trauma they experienced in a safe way. Cognitive restructuring is another CBT technique that helps individuals make sense of the traumatic event and address feelings of guilt or shame that may not be rooted in reality.

Medications for Managing PTSD Symptoms

Alongside psychotherapy, medications can also be used to manage PTSD symptoms. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has approved two selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs), a type of antidepressant, for the treatment of PTSD. These medications can help manage symptoms like sadness, worry, anger, and emotional numbness. Other medications may also be prescribed to manage specific symptoms such as sleep problems and nightmares. You should always consult with your health care provider to determine the best medication plan for your needs.

The Role of Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT) in PTSD Treatment

At DBT of South Jersey, we specialize in a specific type of cognitive-behavioral therapy known as Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT). DBT is particularly effective for clients who have endured multiple traumas and are struggling with complex PTSD. This treatment combines standard DBT with prolonged exposure to reduce or eliminate PTSD symptoms and aims to change deeply ingrained beliefs associated with trauma.

One specific DBT treatment we offer is DBT-Prolonged Exposure (DBT-PE), which targets avoidance behaviors that maintain PTSD symptoms. It is a challenging but incredibly transformative treatment. Research indicates that upwards of 80% of participants no longer met PTSD criteria post-treatment.

In conclusion, while PTSD can significantly impact an individual’s life, it’s important to remember that there are effective treatment options available. At DBT of South Jersey, we’re committed to helping our clients navigate their PTSD journey and regain control of their lives, one step at a time.

How to Support Someone with PTSD

Supporting someone with PTSD is a delicate process that requires understanding, patience, and empathy. If you have a loved one who is dealing with PTSD, here are some ways you can provide effective support.

Encouraging Treatment and Offering Emotional Support

First and foremost, encourage your loved one to seek professional help. Triggering events and symptoms of PTSD can be challenging to manage without appropriate therapy or medication. As we at DBT of South Jersey affirm, the most significant step you can help a person take is to get the right diagnosis and treatment.

PTSD support - ptsd

Offer emotional support by being there for them. Some people may need help making an appointment with their health care provider, while others may need someone to accompany them to their health care visits.

Express your understanding and patience as they navigate their journey to recovery. Encourage them to stick to their treatment plan, and if symptoms don’t improve after 6 to 8 weeks, motivate them to communicate this to their healthcare provider.

Understanding and Coping with PTSD Symptoms

Educate yourself about PTSD. Learn about its symptoms and triggers to better understand what your loved one is experiencing. When they’re ready to talk, listen carefully, and pay attention to their feelings and the situations that may trigger PTSD symptoms.

Sharing positive distractions, such as walks, outings, and other activities, can also be helpful. However, be mindful not to push them into situations they’re not ready for or comfortable with.

Another effective way to support someone with PTSD is to help them develop coping mechanisms. At DBT of South Jersey, we often use techniques such as the TIPP skill – Temperature, Intense exercise, Paced breathing, and Paired muscle relaxation – to help manage distressing moments.

In conclusion, supporting someone with PTSD can be a challenging journey, but with understanding, patience, and empathy, you can make a significant difference in their recovery process. Always remember, professional help is crucial, and we at DBT of South Jersey are here to provide that support.

PTSD in Different Demographics

PTSD doesn’t discriminate. It can affect anyone, regardless of ethnicity, nationality, culture, or age. Yet, how it affects individual demographics can differ.

PTSD in Women

Research indicates that women are twice as likely to develop PTSD as men. This increased vulnerability could be due to various factors, including the types of traumatic events they are more likely to experience, such as sexual assault and intimate partner violence. Women may also respond to trauma differently, both physically and emotionally, which can influence the development of PTSD.

At DBT of South Jersey, we understand these unique challenges and tailor our therapeutic approaches to meet the specific needs of our female clients. We offer services like our Women’s Healing Circle, which provides a supportive environment for women to share their experiences and learn coping strategies.

PTSD in Different Ethnicities and Cultures

PTSD prevalence also varies among different ethnic and cultural groups. For instance, U.S. Latinos, African Americans, and Native Americans/Alaska Natives have been found to have higher rates of PTSD than non-Latino whites. This discrepancy could be due to various factors, including higher exposure to traumatic events, cultural beliefs, and access to mental health services.

Understanding cultural nuances can play a crucial role in effective PTSD treatment. At DBT of South Jersey, we strive to provide culturally competent care, respecting and acknowledging the diverse backgrounds and unique experiences of our clients.

In conclusion, PTSD can affect anyone, but its impact can vary significantly based on gender, ethnicity, and culture. Recognizing these differences is crucial in providing effective treatment and support. We at DBT of South Jersey are committed to offering tailored, compassionate care to all those struggling with PTSD, respecting their unique experiences and individual journeys.

Conclusion: Living with PTSD and Seeking Help

Living with PTSD can be a challenging journey, marked by emotional turmoil, fear, and avoidance of triggers related to past trauma. But it’s crucial to remember that you are not alone in this battle. Many people just like you are going through the same struggles. Embracing this fact and seeking support from others can be a powerful first step in overcoming the challenges posed by PTSD.

First and foremost, getting timely help is critical. Many people experience PTSD-like symptoms in the immediate aftermath of a traumatic event. However, early intervention can prevent these symptoms from worsening and developing into long-term PTSD. This might involve reaching out to friends and family for comfort, seeking professional help, or turning to your faith community. Support from others can also prevent you from resorting to unhealthy coping mechanisms, such as misuse of alcohol or drugs.

At DBT of South Jersey, we offer an evidence-based treatment known as DBT-Prolonged Exposure (DBT-PE), which targets avoidance – the key factor that maintains PTSD. DBT-PE combines standard DBT with prolonged exposure to reduce PTSD symptoms and change deeply ingrained beliefs associated with trauma. This approach has shown remarkable results, with upwards of 80% of participants no longer meeting the criteria for PTSD post-treatment.

If you know someone who may be experiencing PTSD, your support can be invaluable. Encourage your loved ones to seek help and treatment, offer emotional support, and learn about PTSD to better understand their experience. Sharing positive distractions, such as walks, outings, and other activities, can also be helpful.

Living with PTSD is not easy, but with the right support and treatment, it’s possible to regain control over your life and enjoy everyday activities again. At DBT of South Jersey, we provide a supportive, compassionate environment that fosters healing and recovery. Our team of experienced professionals, including Ashley Fritz, who has over 13 years of experience in the mental health field, is dedicated to helping you navigate your healing journey.

You don’t have to face PTSD alone. Reach out to us at DBT of South Jersey to start your journey towards healing and recovery. For more information on PTSD and how it can be treated, visit our resources page. To learn more about our team and the services we offer, visit our about us page.

people supporting each other - ptsd

No matter how tough things get, there is always hope, and help is available. You are stronger than you think, and with the right support and treatment, you can overcome PTSD and reclaim your life.


DBT of South Jersey media

Stay In The DBT SJ Loop!

Get all our updates, free events and workshops and DBT Tips in one beautifully curated place by subscribing to our email list!

We only send about once a month, so we don’t overwhelm your inbox! 😉

Welcome to DBT of South Jersey – we’re glad you’re here.

Subscription Form