By Jennifer Woolwine

Everything you need to know about post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)

Health + Wellness

baghdad to barnyard

October 23, 2020

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I previously wrote a blog post about living with post-traumatic stress disorder and how it has affected me. I also shared how my farm plays a pivotal role in healing from the invisible wounds of war, and I received several requests to do a blog post explaining post-traumatic stress disorder.

The American Psychiatric Association defines post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) as a psychiatric disorder that may occur in people who have experienced or witnessed a traumatic event such as a natural disaster, a serious accident, a terrorist act, war/combat, rape or have been threatened with death, sexual violence or serious injury. A sudden, unexpected death of a loved one can also cause PTSD.

The National Center for PTSD states 7 or 8 out of every 100 people will experience PTSD at some point in their lives, and anyone can develop PTSD at any age. Most people who witness a traumatic event will go through a range of normal emotions that usually go away over time. For a person with PTSD, however, these feelings become so strong that they interfere with daily living for months and even years.

PTSD is common among veterans returning from combat. Memories of their wartime experiences, flashbacks, or reliving the event can still be upsetting long after they served in combat. About 11-20 out of every 100 Veterans who served in Operations Iraqi Freedom and Enduring Freedom have PTSD, and about 30 out of every 100 Vietnam Veterans have had PTSD, according to the National Center for PTSD.

The American Psychological Association’s (APA) Diagnostic and Statistical Manual Fifth Edition (DSM-5) states the criteria required to receive a diagnosis of PTSD as follows:

  1. Have been exposed to injury, sexual violence, death, or threatened death, whether directly or through witnessing it.

  2. Experience the following for more than one month:

a.       one or more intrusion symptoms

b.       one or more avoidance symptoms

c.       two or more symptoms that affect mood and thinking

d.       two or more arousal and reactivity symptoms that began after the trauma

4 categories of symptoms for PTSD

  • Re-experiencing the traumatic event through nightmares, hallucinations, flashbacks, or memories.

  • Avoidance and numbing- avoiding anything that reminds them of the trauma, such as places, events, or objects.

  • Hyperarousal- easily startled, hypervigilance, difficulty sleeping, irritability, impaired impulse control.

  • Negative thoughts and mood changes include depression, loss of interest in enjoyable activities, hopelessness, and persistent feelings of guilt, shame, horror, or anger.

Medication such as antidepressants is commonly used to treat symptoms of PTSD along with psychotherapy. Therapy includes informing the patient about the symptoms of PTSD, teaching skills to help identify triggers, and learning to manage the symptoms.

Types of PTSD therapies are:

  • Cognitive Processing Therapy (CPT) helps people identify how trauma changed their view about themselves, others, and the world, typically in eight to fourteen sessions. In CPT, you learn the basics of PTSD and the common ways people react to trauma. You also know how to change your negative thoughts and feelings during CPT.

  • Prolonged Exposure (PE) helps people do things and go places they have avoided since the trauma in eight to fifteen weekly sessions.

  • Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR) helps people process their trauma using back-and-forth movements or sounds while calling to mind the memory. Research shows many people start to notice improvements after only a few sessions.

Treatment for PTSD can lessen symptoms by helping you deal with the trauma you have experienced. A therapist will encourage you to recall and sort out your emotions during the event. You will also learn how to cope with unsettling memories, and feelings of guilt and address the problems PTSD has caused in your life.

PTSD self-help tips:

  • confide in friends or family

  • do not self-medicate with alcohol or drugs

  • spending time with people who know about your trauma

  • eat a healthy diet

  • telling people what might trigger symptoms

  • physical exercise

  • develop a relaxing bedtime ritual

  • relaxation, breathing, or meditation techniques

  • listening to quiet music or spending time in nature

  • participating in enjoyable activities

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It’s important to understand that what works for one person with PTSD doesn’t mean it works for everyone. Each individual responds to therapy differently. Prompt treatment with a qualified professional can help prevent the symptoms from worsening. You can help a family member or friend who has PTSD by educating yourself about trauma and the symptoms of PTSD. Recovery is a process that takes time, so staying positive and supporting your loved one is essential.


  • National Suicide Prevention Lifeline : 1-800-273-TALK . This service is available 24/7 and provides crisis intervention and support.

  • Veteran Crisis Line: 1-800-273-8255 and press “1” for veterans. You can also send a text message to 838255

  • Crisis Text Line: Text HOME to 741741 This service is also available 24/7 and provides free crisis support via text

I hope this blog post was helpful and if you have any questions, please let me know. XOXO


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  1. Michele says:

    That is great information Jennifer! Thank you for sharing. I can not imagine the trauma endured.

Jen Woolwine       Author

Jen is a combat veteran and wife who is passionate about animal rescue, homesteading, and mental health advocacy. Jen's amazing journey of transitioning from military service to homesteading can be followed on her blog and social media platforms @baghdadtobarnyard.

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