PTSD treatment online: Do I have PTSD?

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What is PTSD?

Post-traumatic stress disorder, or PTSD, is a mental health condition that's triggered by experiencing or witnessing a traumatic event. While most people who live through a traumatic event will experience fear and anxiety, for some, problems will persist long after the event has ended, and be severe enough to interfere with their daily life.

Many people associate PTSD with combat veterans, but it’s important to know that PTSD can affect anyone of any age or background who has survived any kind of trauma. An estimated 1 in 11 people will be diagnosed with PTSD in their lifetimes.

If you think you may have PTSD, help is available. The first step is getting a clinical diagnosis from a qualified mental health professional, like a psychiatrist. There are many treatment options available to you which can make a major difference in your life and symptoms.

PTSD is a mental health condition triggered by witnessing or experiencing a traumatic event or series of events. Common triggers for PTSD include:
  • War or combat
  • Domestic abuse
  • Natural disasters
  • Physical assault
  • Sexual assault
  • Serious accidents
  • Bullying
Many people who live through events like these will experience short-term symptoms in the days and weeks following, like fear, flashbacks, or trouble sleeping. This “fight-or-flight” response is a normal reaction to trauma, and often resolves on its own.

For some people, however, these disruptive symptoms persist or get worse. If your symptoms have been going on for over a month and are severe enough to interfere with your work and relationships, you may be experiencing PTSD.
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What are the symptoms of PTSD?

For many, the symptoms of PTSD start within a month of the traumatic event, but sometimes they don’t appear until much later. These symptoms can vary over time and are generally divided into four categories: re-experiencing symptoms, avoidance, alterations in cognition and mood, and arousal and reactivity symptoms.  

Re-experiencing symptoms, also known as intrusion symptoms, include:
  • Flashbacks that may cause you to feel like you’re experiencing the trauma again. This may include physical symptoms like sweating or shaking.
  • Nightmares
  • Frightening thoughts
Avoidance symptoms include:
  • Staying away from places, people, activities or objects that remind you of the traumatic event
  • Avoiding thoughts or feelings associated with the event, like trying to stay busy to keep from thinking about it
Alterations in cognition and mood symptoms include:
  • Trouble remembering key details about the traumatic event
  • Feeling hopelessness about the future
  • Negative thoughts about yourself or the world
  • Feeling detached from family and friends or difficulty maintaining close relationships
  • Loss of interest in activities you once enjoyed
  • Feeling numb
  • Having trouble trusting others
Arousal and reactivity symptoms include:
  • Being easily startled
  • Feeling tense or “on edge”
  • Angry outbursts
  • Behaving recklessly or in a self-destructive way
  • Inability to concentrate
  • Sleep problems, including restlessness, difficulty staying asleep, and difficulty falling asleep
If you have PTSD, you may not experience every one of these symptoms, but you will experience symptoms from all four categories. Symptoms can come and go, but they typically remain disruptive enough to affect your everyday life and usually persist for over a month.

It’s rare, but some people develop PTSD without living through a traumatic event themselves. For some, learning about a traumatic event happening to a family member or close friend is enough to cause PTSD.

People with PTSD will often have other mental health conditions, including depression, substance use disorders, or anxiety disorders.  
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What causes PTSD?

Anyone who has gone through a traumatic event is at risk for developing PTSD. Doctors aren’t sure why some people who live through traumatic events develop PTSD, while others do not. Researchers are studying both risk factors for PTSD, as well as “resilience factors”—things that might decrease your risk of developing the condition.
Risk factors for PTSD include:
  • Experiencing intense, long-lasting trauma
  • Having other mental health conditions, like anxiety, depression, or substance abuse disorders
  • A history of childhood trauma
  • Having little or no social support after the traumatic event
  • Having blood relatives with mental health conditions, like anxiety, depression, or substance abuse disorders
“Resilience factors”—things that may decrease your risk of developing PTSD after surviving a traumatic event—include:
  • Having a strong social support from friends, family members or loved ones
  • Seeking out a support group after the event
  • Developing positive coping strategies, often with the support of mental healthcare professional
  • Learning to feel good about your own actions in the face of danger
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How does Talkiatry treat PTSD?

The first step in treating PTSD is getting a clinical diagnosis from a qualified mental healthcare professional. Sadly, many people do not take this critical step. Doctors don’t know why some people develop PTSD and others don’t, but they do know that it’s not your fault if you develop the condition.

Many treatment options exist to dramatically improve your quality of life. Traumatic psychological wounds and distressing memories are often treated with a combination of talk therapy and medication management.

With Talkiatry, you can see a psychiatrist from the comfort of your couch and you can schedule your first appointment in a matter of days.

Here’s what to expect in your first visit:

Evaluation: During your first visit with a Talkiatry psychiatrist, you’ll get to meet each other and answer questions about your current symptoms, personal history, medical history, and mental health goals.

Diagnosis: Based on the information you’ve shared, your psychiatrist will be able to provide a diagnosis of your condition, if you have one. Getting a diagnosis can feel scary, but it can also feel validating to finally put a name to what you've been experiencing. Your psychiatrist will help you navigate any emotions that come up and work with you on a path to move forward.

Treatment plan: You’ll collaborate with your psychiatrist on the best way to manage your symptoms. If medication is appropriate, you’ll discuss your options, including the benefits and potential side effects of each medication. Your psychiatrist will provide supportive therapy throughout your session, and may also recommend working with one of our therapists. Our therapists partner with our psychiatrists to provide collaborative care.

To get started, take our free online assessment, to see if Talkiatry is right for you and get matched with a psychiatrist.  
Medication management
Your psychiatrist may recommend prescription medication to help manage the symptoms of PTSD. Medications are second-line treatment for PTSD, but they can help with stabilizing mood, reducing anxiety, and decreasing nightmares. The most common type of medications prescribed for PTSD are antidepressants, which may help control many of the symptoms of the condition, including sadness, worry, fear, anger, or numbness.
  • Antidepressants like SSRIs (selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors) and SNRIs (serotonin-norepinephrine reuptake inhibitors) increase the levels of specific chemicals in the brain that help regulate mood.
These medications can sometimes take several weeks to reach full effectiveness. Even then, if you don’t respond to one SSRI or SNRI, you may respond to another, which is why it’s so important to work with a qualified healthcare professional who can respond to your specific situation.  

Depending on your symptoms, your psychiatrist may also recommend other medications, including anti-anxiety medications or insomnia medications, which can help with things like agitation and sleep problems.
The most effective PTSD treatment plans typically involve a combination of medication management and therapy. Your Talkiatry psychiatrist may recommend working with a therapist, who can offer many supportive therapies including:
  • Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), a targeted therapy technique that aims to help you understand your feelings, process the traumatic event, and change negative thinking patterns around the traumatic event.
  • Exposure therapy, a form of therapy that aims to help you relive aspects of the traumatic event in a safe environment to help desensitize you to it. Doing so can break avoidance and fear patterns around the traumatic event.
  • Eye movement desensitization and reprocessing (EMDR), a therapy technique that combines exposure therapy with a series of guided eye movements. This has been shown to help you better process the traumatic memory and change how you react to it.
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How to get started

If you have or think you might have PTSD, Talkiatry can help. Here’s how to get started: 
Expect to hear a bit about your psychiatrist’s background, and then to share exactly what brought you in. You may be asked about your medical history, day-to-day life, and goals and expectations for treatment. If you’re nervous about a particular element of treatment—say, taking an antidepressant for PTSD—we want to hear about that, too. Your Talkiatry psychiatrist knows that the best treatment plan is the one you’ll stick to, so they’ll work with you to come up with a strategy that you’re both comfortable with.
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Receive your personalized treatment plan, which may include a combination of medication and supportive therapy.
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Continuous care will include adjusting your treatment plan as needed.
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About Talkiatry

Talkiatry is a national psychiatry practice that provides in-network, virtual care. Co-founded by a patient and a triple-board-certified psychiatrist, Talkiatry has over 300 doctors, 100 insurance partners, and first visits available in days. We treat patients with a range of mental health conditions, including PTSD. Get started with a short online assessment.

The information in this article is for educational purposes only and should never be substituted for medical advice, diagnoses, or treatment. 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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