Stages of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder | Banyan Mental Health
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The Stages of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder

While most people who undergo a difficult situation get better after some self-care, others may suffer from long-term symptoms.

Those who are unable to recover from the event may show signs of post-traumatic stress disorder. Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is a mental illness that’s triggered by either experiencing or witnessing a traumatic event. People with PTSD may experience flashbacks, nightmares, and severe anxiety related to the incident. Like any other mental illness, PTSD can prevent a person from carrying out their daily responsibilities and interacting with others. They may develop anxiety whenever something occurs that’s related to the event, making outings and socializing difficult.

As a mental health treatment center in Florida, we understand the stages of post-traumatic stress disorder and offer services to help those struggling with this condition.

The 4 Stages of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder

Many people are familiar with the term PTSD but don’t truly understand the condition. While this mental illness has been depicted in many movies and TV shows, the stages of post-traumatic stress disorder in these instances have often been obscured. The effects of trauma on the brain are much more complex than you may think. Although PTSD is prevalent among war veterans and first responders, it’s not a discriminatory disease and can happen to anyone. Because this mental condition is so vast, the causes of PTSD can vary depending on the person and their experiences. Fortunately, we do have a general understanding of how this mental illness can be broken up.

The four different phases of PTSD are as follows:

The Impact or Emergency Stage

The first phase of PTSD is the impact phase. This usually occurs after the person has personally experienced or witnessed a traumatic event. How long the impact stage lasts depends on the severity of the event – the more traumatic the incident, the longer the impact. For example, someone who lost their home in a flood may stay in the impact phase longer than someone who witnessed a crime and was able to return home to safety.

During the impact phase, people usually experience symptoms like:

  • Shock
  • Fear
  • Withdrawal
  • Feelings of helplessness
  • Guilt (especially if they survived the incident and someone else did not)
  • Anxiety
  • Hypervigilance (highly detail-oriented and being able to recall the smallest details)

While this stage may not last past a few days in some people, those who progressively get worse may have post-traumatic stress disorder. Therapy is usually beneficial to individuals in this stage and can prevent symptoms from worsening. At Banyan Mental Health, we offer a mental health residential program that separates patients from their daily environments to help them recover without distractions.

The Rescue Stage

The second stage of post-traumatic stress disorder is the rescue stage. In the rescue phase, the person will begin to accept what happened. In order to do so, the person may need to return to the place where the incident occurred, assess any damage that was done to their home, and talk to others who survived that event or a similar incident. The rescue stage does not, however, refer to complete recovery from the experience but rather the acceptance of it

In the rescue phase, a person with PTSD may experience symptoms like:

  • Denial
  • Anxiety
  • Confusion
  • Panic
  • Nightmares
  • Feelings of helplessness and despair
  • Guilt (especially if they were the sole survivor)
  • Extreme sadness
  • Anger towards the person who caused the incident or themselves
  • Numbness or feeling of emptiness

These symptoms may cause the person to act out in negative ways. They may mistreat or lash out at their loved ones because they’re struggling to cope with their emotions. They may even isolate themselves completely. Behavioral patterns are often affected by PTSD, but help is available. The dialectical behavioral therapy offered at our mental health rehab in Florida helps patients find a balance between their emotions and behavior, helping them recover from mental conditions like post-traumatic stress disorder.

The Intermediate Recovery Stage

As the last of the four phases of post-traumatic stress disorder, the intermediate recovery phase of PTSD refers to the transition back to everyday life. Once the person has addressed their needs in relation to their safety, they can then shift their attention to other problems. The intermediate stage also involves the overabundance or lack of support a person may receive from others. It can also be broken down into two additional phases:

Altruism: The term “altruism” refers to selflessness and kindness. In this stage the person may experience an overabundance of love and support from others, motivating them to move forward. The person may be hesitant to express any negative thoughts or emotions due to fear of appearing ungrateful, though. Regardless, peer support is helpful.

Disillusionment: Disillusionment is the polar opposite of altruism. The term itself refers to disappointment. Regarding PTSD, disillusionment refers to the disappointment the person may feel in response to a lack of support. This could also occur when the person stops receiving support from others, making them realize that they have to deal with the aftermath of this event on their own.

The Long-Term Reconstruction Stage

The name makes it clear that the reconstruction phase of PTSD is when the person is coping with the personal aftermath of the incident. When a person moves into this phase, they may experience feelings of fear, extreme sadness, and resentment. They may also worry about their future. It’s important to address the thoughts, feelings, and emotions associated with the traumatic experience in order to fully recover. Without PTSD treatment, the person may continue to struggle with their symptoms for years.

If you or a loved one is battling a mental illness or dual diagnosis, call us today at 888-280-4763 to learn about our mental health facility and what we treat.

Related Readings:

    First Signs of Mental Health Disorders

    How to Break Mental Health Stigmas and Stereotypes

    Self Help Books for Mental Illness

Alyssa is Banyan’s Director of Digital Marketing & Technology. After overcoming her own struggles with addiction, she began working in the treatment field in 2012. She graduated from Palm Beach State College in 2016 with additional education in Salesforce University programs. A part of the Banyan team since 2016, Alyssa brings over 5 years of experience in the addiction treatment field.

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