What is Post-traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)?

When we feel threatened, we naturally experience fear and anxiety, and the “fight-or-flight” response kicks in. Although unpleasant, this reaction is our body’s way of alerting us to possible danger, and helping us protect ourselves from it. Some people however, experience this surge in fear and anxiety activation despite not being in danger. This is what happens in Posttraumatic Stress Disorder. After terrifying or life-threatening event, also known as a trauma, fear can be triggered too easily afterward, and with overwhelming intensity.

Trauma is somewhat common, and is defined as an intensely frightening situation in which someone’s life is at risk, or someone is at risk of experiencing severe bodily harm. Most people recover from trauma fairly quickly on their own. Others have a more difficult time processing the ordeal, and thus go on to develop PTSD. They experience continued or increased fear and anxiety in response to reminders of the trauma, and suffer a great deal due to their symptoms. These can include heightened anxiety, flashbacks, nightmares, emotional numbing, and avoidance of situations related to the trauma. 

Most people associate PTSD with veterans, yet PTSD is frequently found among a wide swath of the population. Anything from experiencing a natural disaster, car accident, or being the victim of a crime can result in PTSD. Other events such as witnessing a friend or family member in serious danger, or having a loved one die, can also lead to symptoms of PTSD.

Traumas are a relatively common occurrence in the United States, with approximately 3 out of 5 Americans experiencing a trauma over the course of a lifetime. When compared to the lifetime prevalence of PTSD, which is about 8% of the population, it is clear that trauma does not necessarily result in PTSD, and in fact, most who experience a trauma never go on to develop the disorder.

At Cognitive Behavioral Therapy Los Angeles, we are experts in the field of evidence-based treatment for PTSD. Call or email today to schedule an appointment.