What is post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)?

What is post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)?

Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), also known as shell shock or battle fatigue, occurs when the brain struggles to deal with anxious feelings and thoughts after experiencing or witnessing a trauma

Reviewed by:
Austin Lin, MD
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July 6, 2021
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Key takeaways

Post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), also known as shell shock or battle fatigue, occurs when the brain struggles to deal with anxious feelings and thoughts after experiencing or witnessing a traumatic event or series of events. PTSD is often associated with veterans, but 50% of all people will experience a traumatic event at least once in their lifetime, and 20% of those people will develop PTSD. 

After experiencing a traumatic event, such as being in a major car accident or being the victim of a burglary, it is entirely normal to react with shock, anger, nervousness, fear, and possibly even guilt. Typically, these reactions subside over time. However, a person may continue to experience intense feelings and have disturbing thoughts long after the trauma has passed, which interferes with their daily lives. In that case, they may have PTSD and should seek psychiatric treatment.

PTSD symptoms

PTSD is not diagnosed immediately after exposure to trauma. Rather, a person may be diagnosed with PTSD if they still experience symptoms months after a traumatic event. Mental health professionals diagnose PTSD based on the following symptoms, behaviors, and conditions as listed and defined in the DSM-5:

Re-experiencing symptoms

  • Flashbacks that cause you to feel like you are going through the event again
  • Nightmares
  • Frightening thoughts

Avoidance

  • Staying away from places, events, and objects that serve as reminders of the trauma. A car accident might cause you to stop driving, for example.
  • Avoiding thoughts and feelings associated with the trauma. For example, you might try to stay busy to avoid thinking about what happened.

Alterations in cognition and mood

  • Being easily startled
  • Feeling tense or "on edge"
  • Having difficulty sleeping
  • Having angry outbursts

Alterations in arousal and reactivity

  • Trouble remembering important things about the traumatic event
  • Negative thoughts about yourself or the world
  • Feelings of guilt and self-blame
  • Loss of interest in something you enjoyed
  • Difficulty concentrating

These symptoms can lead to significant impairment in a person’s life, whether socially, professionally, or otherwise, and may require psychiatric treatment.

Treatment options for PTSD

Psychological and biological reactions to trauma can be intense and painful. Some people live their lives with few or no symptoms, while for others, the intensity and pain persist. Traumatic psychological wounds can be challenging to treat with medication alone, so the most effective treatment usually involves both medication management and psychotherapy.

How Talkiatry treats PTSD 

Medication management

Talkiatry may recommend medication management as a tool to help manage your reaction to trauma. Medication can help people dealing with PTSD control and relieve their symptoms, allowing them to participate more effectively in psychotherapy.

Antidepressants, including SNRIs and SSRIs (selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors and serotonin-norepinephrine reuptake inhibitors), are commonly used to treat PTSD. Talkiatry may also prescribe medications to manage anxiety, physical agitation, nightmares, and sleep disorders.

Psychotherapy 

Typically, our PTSD specialists will recommend the use of medications alongside various psychotherapy treatments, such as:

  • Cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT). This form of talk therapy can help you understand your feelings, process the traumatic event, and change your negative thinking patterns. 
  • Exposure therapy. During exposure therapy sessions, patients will relive aspects of trauma in a safe environment to help desensitize and break patterns of avoidance and fear. 
  • Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR). Our PTSD specialists may recommend this trauma-specific therapy to relieve anxiety and stress caused by trauma. EMDR therapy involves briefly exposing patients to traumatic memories while simultaneously focusing on an external stimulus, such as combining the patient's eye movements with the therapist's hands.

With PTSD, the risk of developing a depressive disorder is three to five times greater. Therefore, we encourage you to take our online assessment to match with one of our psychiatrists who has experience treating your diagnosis. With Talkiatry’s PTSD specialists, you'll receive the personalized care you need.

Take the next step with Talkiatry

Our providers offer comprehensive mental health solutions that are local, accessible, and in-network. Talkiatry connects the traditional way of treating PTSD with modern technology, scale, and efficiency to provide a healing environment that provides the most effective outcomes.

If your feelings and reactions to a traumatic event have become unmanageable for you, we're here to help! At Talkiatry, we have psychiatrists and nurse practitioners trained in various modalities that specialize in treating PTSD. Our free assessment will give you a preliminary diagnosis and provide more information about your symptoms. Then, based on that diagnosis, we'll match you with one of our psychiatrists who can provide you with the treatment you need to manage PTSD. 

Take the assessment today to get started.

Talkiatry is a mental health practice, and our clinicians review everything we write. However, articles are never a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. If you think you may need mental health help, talk to a psychiatrist. If you or someone you know may be in danger, call 911 or the National Suicide and Crisis Lifeline at 988 right away.

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Frequently asked questions

Does Talkiatry take my insurance?

We're in network with major insurers, including:

  • Aetna
  • Blue Cross Blue Shield
  • Cigna
  • Humana
  • Medicare
  • Oscar
  • United Healthcare
  • Optum
  • Compsych

Even if your insurer isn't on the list, we might still accept it. Use the insurance eligibility checker in our online assessment to learn more.

Can I get an estimate of my visit cost?

The best way to get a detailed estimate of your cost is to contact your insurance company directly, since your cost will depend on the details of your insurance.  

For some, it’s just a co-pay. If you have an unmet deductible it could be more.  

Call the number on your insurance card and ask about your plan’s coverage for outpatient psychiatric services.

What kind of treatment does Talkiatry provide?

At Talkiatry, we specialize in psychiatry, meaning the diagnosis and treatment of mental health conditions. Your psychiatrist will meet with you virtually on a schedule you set together, devise a treatment plan tailored to your specific needs and preferences, and work with you to adjust your plan as you meet your goals.

If your treatment plan includes medication, your psychiatrist will prescribe and manage it. If needed, your psychiatrist can also refer you to a Talkiatry therapist.

What's the difference between a therapist and psychiatrist?

Psychiatrists are doctors who have specialized training in diagnosing and treating complex mental health conditions through medication management. If you are experiencing symptoms of a mental health condition such as depression, anxiety, bipolar disorder, PTSD, or similar, a psychiatrist may be a good place to start.  

Other signs that you should see a psychiatrist include:  

  • Your primary care doctor or another doctor thinks you may benefit from the services of a psychiatrist and provides a referral    
  • You are interested in taking medication to treat a mental health condition  
  • Your symptoms are severe enough to regularly interfere with your everyday life

The term “therapist” can apply to a range of professionals including social workers, mental health counselors, psychologists, professional counselors, marriage and family therapists, and psychoanalysts. Working with a therapist generally involves regular talk therapy sessions where you discuss your feelings, problem-solving strategies, and coping mechanisms to help with your condition.

How does Talkiatry compare to face-to-face treatment?

For most patients, Talkiatry treatment is just as effective as in-person psychiatry (American Psychiatric Association, 2021), and much more convenient. That said, we don’t currently provide treatment for schizophrenia, primary eating disorder treatment, or Medication Assisted Treatment for substance use disorders.

Who can prescribe medication?

All our psychiatrists (and all psychiatrists in general) are medical doctors with additional training in mental health. They can prescribe any medication they think can help their patients. In order to find out which medications might be appropriate, they need to conduct a full evaluation. At Talkiatry, first visits are generally scheduled for 60 minutes or more to give your psychiatrist time to learn about you, work on a treatment plan, and discuss any medications that might be included.

About
Austin Lin, MD

Dr. Austin Lin is a double board-certified adult and addiction psychiatrist who has been in practice for over 9 years. At the center of Dr. Lin’s clinical approach is a strong emphasis on establishing trust and using a collaborative approach to help patients develop an individualized and cohesive plan so that they are able to achieve their goals.

Dr. Lin's practice focuses on medication management. Typically, he offers this in conjunction with supportive therapy, motivational interviewing, and/or cognitive behavioral therapy in 30-minute follow-up visits. Occasionally, Dr. Lin may recommend that additional therapy is needed and ask that you bring a therapist into your care team in order to provide the best outcome.

Dr. Lin received his medical degree from St. George’s University School of Medicine. He went on to complete his residency in psychiatry at Harvard South Shore, an affiliate of Harvard Medical School, where he served as Chief Resident and earned his 360° Professionalism award. He then had additional training in Addiction Psychiatry through his fellowship at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center. After completing training, Dr. Lin has worked as an Addiction Psychiatrist and Director of Adult Services in the Trauma and Resilience Center (TRC) at the University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston (UTHealth). He specialized in treating patients with a history of depression, anxiety, trauma, and substance use disorders.

Dr. Lin has held an academic appointment at UTHealth, and he has spent his professional career supervising and teaching medical students and psychiatry residents.



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