Understanding PTSD: You Are Not Alone

Post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is a psychiatric disorder that can originate from experiencing or witnessing any number of frightening or distressing events, such as a serious accident, a natural disaster, combat or a violent assault, or personal abuse or harassment.

While widespread recognition has brought this mental health challenge out in the open, there is still stigma and shame surrounding PTSD. Considering that an estimated 24.4 million people in the U.S. have PTSD at any given time, it’s critical that we better understand this challenge and support individuals who are grappling with it on a daily basis.

What Is It Like to Have PTSD?

Whatever trauma triggers PTSD, individuals can experience intense and disturbing thoughts and feelings about the experience weeks, months, and/or years afterward. Often individuals feel isolated and detached from other people, and take great measures to avoid situations that may remind them of the traumatic event. They may even have strong, negative reactions to ordinary experiences that involve noises or an accidental touch that triggers the experience in their memory. 

Symptoms of PTSD fall into four categories and can vary in severity from person to person:

  • Intrusive Thoughts
    Intrusive thoughts can take many forms, including involuntary memories, nightmares and flashbacks, all of which are commonly experienced by those with PTSD. These thoughts can be so vivid and realistic that the individual fully believes they are reliving the traumatic experience in the moment.
  • Situational Avoidance
    Avoiding any and all reminders of the traumatic event typically requires the individual to steer clear of people, places, activities, and situations that can bring on disturbing memories and thoughts. Individuals may also avoid conversations about the experience and lash out at those who ask if they want to talk about it.
  • Distorted Ideas
    It is common for those with PTSD to have distorted thoughts and beliefs about themselves or others and ongoing fear, anger, guilt or shame. These thoughts can sound like, “I am a bad person,” “I can’t trust anyone,” or “I should have died, not her.” As a result of these distortions, individuals are often less interested in activities they once enjoyed and also begin to feel detached or estranged from loved ones.
  • Reactive Behavior
    Reactive behavior associated with PTSD can include having angry outbursts, becoming easily irritable, behaving recklessly or in a self-destructive way, being easily startled, or having problems concentrating or sleeping. While many people who experience a traumatic event may experience symptoms like these in the days following the event, people with PTSD will experience these symptoms for months and even years.

Recovery Is Possible

If you’re living with PTSD, you may feel as though you’re destined to deal with these symptoms forever. But treatment is possible, and you do not have to bear this burden alone. 

The primary treatment for PTSD is usually some form of therapy and could also include medication. The most important step is reaching out for help and support. If seeking out professional help is initially too overwhelming, consider confiding in a person you trust. Opening up about your challenges can help you feel less isolated and could be the first step to healing.

Seeking out a therapist for support can help you address and cope with your symptoms and help you think better about yourself, the world, and others around you. If you’re not sure where to start, reach out to Sunstone. We are dedicated to helping our community address and overcome their mental health challenges one counseling session at a time. We can help you find the right counselor to walk with you on your journey of healing, and guide you to a brighter tomorrow.


About Sunstone Counseling

Founded in 2011, Sunstone Counseling serves hundreds of people every year with 70+ counselors and locations in Alexandria, Falls Church, Ashburn, McLean, Richmond, and online. We are dedicated to meeting the community’s mental health needs by providing comprehensive, accessible, and high-quality counseling services. With a range of experience and price points, Sunstone sets itself apart by making mental health counseling easily accessible to all. We believe everyone deserves to shine brighter and be their best selves.

Safe and supportive care for all ages and stages of life
We offer counseling services for adults, children, adolescents, couples, families, and groups.

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With offices in Alexandria, Falls Church, McLean, Ashburn, Richmond, and online, you can get the help you need, when you need it.

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Our diverse and qualified counselors’ rates vary based on their level of experience and training, as well as the length and type of your session.

Contact Us to schedule a consultation and get started on your path to a brighter tomorrow.