As with mild traumatic brain injury (TBI), PTSD symptoms can be very subtle. "For example, some people can go even months after a mild head injury feeling a little different and not really relating it to a previous injury," says Leighton Chan, M.D. chief of the Department of Rehabilitation Medicine at the NIH Clinical Center. Generally PTSD symptoms include:
- Flashbacks—feeling like the traumatic event is happening again
- Uncontrollable, frightening thoughts
- Avoidance of places and things that remind you of what happened
- Feelings of worry, guilt, or sadness
- Feeling alone
- Trouble sleeping
- Being on edge
- Angry outbursts
- Thoughts of hurting one's self or others
As with other mental disorders, there are no biological tests for diagnosing PTSD. There are psychiatric and physical exams that can help rule out similar conditions. PTSD diagnosis is made based on a certain set of symptoms that begin or continue after a traumatic experience.
Research is yielding new, improved therapies that can help most people with PTSD and other anxiety disorders lead productive, fulfilling lives. Current treatment includes:
- "Talk" therapy, medication, or both
- Treatment might take six to 12 weeks. For some people, it takes longer. Treatment is not the same for everyone. What works for you might not work for someone else.
- Drinking alcohol or using other drugs will not help PTSD go away and may make it worse.