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Tuesday, April 23, 2024

Understanding Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder

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Unfortunately, many of us will experience trauma in our lifetime. A traumatic event could be anything from assault or combat to childhood neglect. Traumatic events can affect survivors, rescue workers and the friends and relatives of victims who have been involved.

Responses to such events may include feelings of fear, grief or depression. Most people report feeling better within three months after a traumatic event, but if the problems become worse or last longer than one month after the event, you may be suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder, or PTSD. More than 5 million people experience PTSD each year.

“Many people who have experienced a traumatic event may not recognize that they have PTSD. But by increasing our global awareness of the signs and symptoms of this disorder, those who are suffering will begin to seek and receive needed treatment from qualified professionals,” explains Beth Ryan, regional clinical director, New Directions Behavioral Health, a company that provides behavioral health services to most Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan members.

Identifying PTSD

PTSD is an intense physical and emotional response to thoughts and reminders of the event that can last for many weeks or months after the traumatic event. The symptoms of PTSD fall into three broad categories: re-living, avoidance and increased arousal.

  • Symptoms of re-living include flashbacks, nightmares and extreme emotional and physical reactions to reminders of the event. Emotional reactions can include feeling guilty, extreme fear of harm and numbing of emotions. Physical reactions can include uncontrollable shaking, chills or heart palpitations and tension headaches.
  • Symptoms of avoidance include staying away from activities, places, thoughts or feelings related to the trauma, as well as feeling detached or estranged from others.
  • Symptoms of increased arousal include being overly alert or easily startled, difficulty sleeping, irritability or outbursts of anger and lack of concentration.

What to do

If you’ve experienced trauma or any of these symptoms, talk to your physician or a licensed mental health professional. You can call the number on the back of your member ID card for help in getting the care you need. Or members and nonmembers alike can use the Find a Doctor search feature on bcbsm.com to find a physician or mental health professional in their area.

Blue Cross has a robust network of mental health professionals, including psychiatrists, psychologists, licensed professional counselors and other mental health specialists. When visiting the Find a Doctor section of our website, you can scroll down to the Behavioral and Mental Health section of the page and click on Find Providers to locate one that meets your needs.


  • Chris’s Story: How Yoga Saved a Veteran’s Life
  • Don’t Be Fooled by These PTSD Myths
  • PTSD Awareness: Signs & Symptoms

Sources: New Directions Behavioral Health; Centers for Disease Control and Prevention ©2020

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