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How is PTSD diagnosed and treated?

California residents who have been the victim of a crime, served in combat or experienced an accident may develop symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder. If you have experienced a traumatic event, you may suffer from symptoms such as anxiety, flashbacks or nightmares. These symptoms may be severe and disrupt your activities of daily living.

According to the Mayo Clinic, you do not have to experience the inciting event yourself in order to develop PTSD. Even witnessing a traumatic event may be enough to evoke the symptoms. PTSD frequently affects those repeatedly exposed to details of traumatic events, such as soldiers and first responders. While onset of symptoms may first appear within a month after the traumatic event, sometimes years may pass before the disorder begins to manifest.

A mental health professional can diagnose you with PTSD according to criteria set forth in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, which is a standard diagnostic tool. You will need to undergo a psychological evaluation as well as a physical examination in order to rule out any underlying medical conditions that may be causing your symptoms.

Treatment of PTSD consists primarily of psychotherapy, although your treating physician may also prescribe medications, such as anti-anxiety medications or antidepressants. The type of therapy you receive may depend partly on which symptoms you have. If you have nightmares or flashbacks, your therapist may use exposure to therapy, in which you will face frightening situations in a safe environment in order to learn to cope. However, if you are stuck in negative thinking patterns, your therapist may use cognitive therapy. Some patients find group therapy, in which people who have had similar experiences support and share with one another, to be helpful, while others may prefer individual therapy.

The information in this article is not intended as legal advice but provided for educational purposes only.

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