How Long Does PTSD Last? Can It Last Forever?

Find out all about PTSD, including how long PTSD lasts, how to know if you have it, and how to recover from it.
Desperate young woman sitting head in hands on sofa and crying, panorama. Upset lady thinking about problem or having depression, suffering from nervous breakdown. Mental health concept

Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) is a serious mental health condition that has a far-reaching and disturbing effect on a person’s everyday life. Statistics by the US Department of Veteran Affairs in 2019 show that about 8 million adults in the U.S. have PTSD during a given year. And according to the numbers of Sidran Institute in 2018, 1 in 13 people in the US will develop PTSD at some point in their lifetime.

Moreover, 20% of the individuals who have undergone a traumatic event will develop PTSD. Among all the concerns about PTSD, the question “how long does PTSD last?” seems to be the most common one.

This article will provide you with a thorough understanding of PTSD, including its symptoms and causes, how long PTSD can last, and the risk factors considered to contribute to the development of PTSD. We will also show you some healthy ways of dealing with and recovering from the condition.

PTSD Overview

Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), as defined by the United Kingdom National Health Service (NHK), is an anxiety disorder caused by very stressful, terrifying, or disturbing events—either through experiencing them directly or by witnessing them.

Individuals with PTSD may feel isolated, irritable, and guilty; they may also relive the traumatic situation through nightmares and flashbacks. Likewise, they may also suffer from insomnia and find it difficult to concentrate. These symptoms could last for many months and even years. And if it gets worse, the severity could have a serious impact on the person’s daily life.

To reduce symptoms and help people with PTSD enjoy a better life, it is important that they receive effective treatment right after developing symptoms.

Symptoms

How Do You Know if You Have PTSD?

Mayo Clinic explains that individuals usually experience the symptoms of PTSD a month after a traumatic event. However, sometimes, these symptoms may not show up until years later.  

PTSD symptoms are categorized into 4 types of experiences:

  • Invasion of unwanted memories
  • Avoidance
  • Negative thoughts and mood
  • Negative emotional or physical reactions

Invasion of Unwanted Memories

Symptoms of intrusive memories may contain:

  • Uncontrollable flashbacks of the traumatic situation
  • Frightening and distressing memories that keep occurring
  • Disturbing nightmares about the traumatic event
  • Severe physical and mental reactions when being reminded of the traumatic event

Avoidance

Symptoms of avoidance may include:

  • Shunning all the thoughts and conversations about the traumatic situation
  • Keeping away from potential reminders of the traumatic event

Negative Thoughts and Mood

This mental outlook may include the following symptoms:

  • Despair about the future
  • Bad thoughts about yourself and other people
  • Memory loss regarding important aspects of the event
  • Detachment from family and friends
  • Challenges in maintaining close bonds with others
  • Loss of excitement for the activities you once enjoyed
  • Difficulty in expressing positive emotion
  • Feeling emotionally numb

Negative Emotional or Physical Reactions

Symptoms of emotional and physical distress can include:

  • Overprotectiveness to avoid danger
  • Self-destructive behaviors
  • Reduced ability to concentrate
  • Sleeping problems
  • Easily irritated and behaves aggressively
  • Always feels ashamed or guilty

PTSD symptoms can get more intense when you are faced with a stressful situation, or when you are reminded of the trauma you witnessed or experienced. With regards to children 6 years old and younger, they can relive the traumatic event during play time or at night through terrifying dreams.

Causes

Unbearable stress that the mind or body cannot handle and has a hard time processing culminates in the symptoms of PTSD. The kinds of unwanted experiences which can cause PTSD may include:

  • Physical or sexual assault
  • Abuse, harassment, or bullying
  • Having a job where they often see terrifying images or get exposed to traumatic events, such as military personnel
  • Serious accidents
  • Traumatic situations at work
  • Witnessing other people get hurt or be killed
  • Wars and conflicts

Who is more prone to PTSD?

Some people are more prone to develop PTSD than others. Or, when they suffer from PTSD, their problem may get more serious. This may be because of the following factors:

  • They are doing a high-risk job
  • They are a refugee or an asylum seeker
  • They have undergone repeated, long-lasting, and intense trauma
  • They got hurt or are experiencing physical pain
  • They receive little or no support from their family and friends
  • They are facing extra stress
  • They have a history of anxiety and depression 

Risk Factors

Exposure to traumatic situations is widely believed as an initial triggering factor behind PTSD. However, researchers have shown that there could be additional elements that contribute to the development of PTSD. The following factors have been considered by scientists as contributors to a higher potential of the development of PTSD.

Genetics

Genetic factors have been shown by researchers to have an influence on the development of various mental health issues, including PTSD. A study conducted on European-American females in general found that genetics impact nearly one-third of the risk of developing PTSD after a traumatic event. This could be linked to the fact that their European ancestors experienced wars and conflict. This could be explained through the framework of epigenetics, a study of how the environment influences genetics and how emotional traumas can be passed on from one generation to the next. Meanwhile, the genetic risk rate in men was found to be significantly lower.

Society

Lack of social assistance is another risk factor. Those who receive very little or no support from their family, friends, or society, set themselves up for a higher risk of developing PTSD. Therefore, providing support for people who have just undergone a traumatic event will make them rekindle hope and maintain a stable emotional balance.

Intelligence Quotient (IQ)

A study exploring the relationship between IQ and vulnerability to PTSD pointed out that children with IQ in the top 15% (115 or higher) are substantially less susceptible to trauma and PTSD, compared to children with average IQ.

Neurological

People who exhibit greater neuroticism have been shown to be more likely to suffer from PTSD.

Traumatic Experience

Trauma has been proven by researchers to have a cumulative effect. Therefore, if a person does not show symptoms of PTSD after surviving a trauma, he or she can develop PTSD after subsequent trauma.

Other Factors

In addition to the above-mentioned risk factors, there are other elements that have been considered to contribute to the development of PTSD. They include mental health conditions before the traumatic event (eg. mood disorders, anxiety-related disorders), life stressors (divorce, financial pressure), and the intense nature of the triggering event. Finally, addiction to alcoholic beverages and drugs, and having blood relatives with mental health problems can increase the likelihood of developing PTSD.

Complications

According to Mayo Clinic, people with PTSD may stand a higher risk of other mental health problems, such as:

  • Depression and anxiety
  • Misuse of drug and alcohol
  • Eating disorders
  • Suicidal thoughts and actions

How Long Does PTSD Last

“How long does PTSD last?” is a common concern among many people. According to John H. Krystal, a leading expert in the area of PTSD from Yale School of Medicine, there is no fixed length of time a person can experience PTSD. Krystal stated that before receiving a PTSD diagnosis, a person must show symptoms for at least one month. In some situations, if not treated, PTSD can last a very long time, perhaps the remainder of one’s life.

Krystal added that most people with long-standing PTSD experience notice the fluctuation in the severity of the symptoms. For some people, PTSD symptoms gradually decrease over time. On the other hand, some individuals notice the increase of their symptoms when they come across reminders of their traumatic situation.

How to Deal With and Recover From PTSD

Despite the disturbing effects of PTSD in your everyday life, the good news is that there are a number of ways to deal with and recover from it. With the tips below, you will have more insight into how to deal with PTSD and how to recover from the condition.

When you’ve  survived a traumatic event, you will experience some common reactions such as fear, anxiety, anger, and depression. These normal stress reactions can get worse and turn into PTSD if they are not dealt with right away. Therefore, you should seek assistance from your trusted family members or friends.

Fortunately, there are organizations that help veterans with PTSD, such as Guards Down. You can seek help and support from these organizations to find the right counseling, a support group with like-minded people and natural healing products. For more information, you can visit https://www.guardsdown.com/.

You can also make an appointment with a mental health professional. With his or her support, you won’t have to rely on unhealthy coping mechanisms, such as using alcohol or drugs.

Associated Procedures

Besides reaching out for help from others, you can also try out one, or a combination of the following activities to reduce PTSD symptoms and tension:

  • Yoga & meditation
  • Self-monitoring to become aware of what situations brings up these feelings
  • Writing in journals to express your thoughts

Last Notes

PTSD may get you stuck in constant disturbing memories and create a far-reaching impact on your daily life. However, with proper knowledge of its causes and symptoms, knowing how long PTSD lasts, as well as understanding healthy ways to prevent and deal with PTSD, you will gradually overcome the traumatic experience and regain control of your life.

We hope this article has provided you all the information you need on your healing journey. For more useful articles on health and beauty, please continue browsing our website!

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