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What are the symptoms of posttraumatic stress disorder?1

Posttraumatic stress disorder, also known as PTSD, is characterized by being exposed to an event that threatens death, serious injury, or sexual violence, and afterwards experiencing intrusive symptoms, avoidance, changes in thoughts or mood, and heightened arousal. Intrusive symptoms include distressing memories or nightmares of the event, flashbacks or feelings of reliving the event, and distressing emotions and physiological symptoms upon experiencing cues similar to the event. Symptoms may include
  • Attempts to avoid internal experiences related to the trauma, like thoughts, memories, or feelings, as well as external reminders, like places, people, or activities.
  • Changes in thoughts involving distressing beliefs about oneself, others, and the world, a heightened sense of danger, and blaming oneself for the event.
  • Emotionally, there’s a persistent negative mood, diminished interest in normal activities, feeling detached from others, and an inability to experience positive emotions.
  • Heightened arousal includes irritability and anger outbursts, reckless behavior, a focus on potential danger, an exaggerated startle response, and problems with sleep.

How common is posttraumatic stress disorder?1

Every year, about 3.5% of the population experiences PTSD; the lifetime prevalence rate is approximately 9%.

What is CBT treatment for posttraumatic stress disorder?

For all disorders, the CBT therapist starts by educating clients about their diagnosis and about CBT, helps clients set treatment goals, and teaches clients essential thinking and behavioral skills. For clients diagnosed with PTSD, CBT focuses on helping clients cope with thoughts and sensations related to the trauma and evaluate beliefs about themselves and the world that have changed since the trauma. Clients also work on becoming more involved in meaningful activities that they have given up and learn how to reconnect with other people.

For health and mental health professionals

Learn to treat posttraumatic stress disorder more effectively at our CBT for PTSD workshop. 1American Psychiatric Association. (2013).Diagnostic and statistical manual of mental disorders(5th ed.). Arlington, VA: American Psychiatric Publishing. doi:10.1176/appi.books.9780890425596.744053