What Is Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder?

Jory Cross by Jory Cross | Licensed since 2012
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This article was updated on: 09/15/2018

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While Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) is something usually associated with military veterans, it can develop in anyone who experiences a shocking or dangerous event, according to the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA). In fact, according to the VA, between 7% and 8% of the population will experience PTSD symptoms at some point in their lives. About 8 million people will have post-traumatic stress disorder in any given year in the United States.

What causes Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder?

If you see or experience something that is traumatic or dangerous, your body triggers an automatic “fight or flight” response to prepare you to protect yourself, according to the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH). People with post-traumatic stress disorder continue to experience these responses long after the initial event, often in response to some triggering event that reminds them of the original trauma. PTSD is considered “acute” if it only lasts a short time after the event, and “chronic” if it is ongoing, according to NIMH.

The VA reports that PTSD can be caused by events such as:

  • Active combat experience
  • Sexual or physical abuse or assault, either as a child or an adult
  • Natural disasters (tornadoes, floods, hurricanes, earthquakes)
  • Car accidents or other serious accidents
  • Witnessing a death

What are Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder symptoms?

According to the VA’s Center for PTSD, symptoms fall into one of four categories:

  • Flashbacks, or reliving the event, which may even occur in the form of nightmares or bad memories.
  • Avoiding things that remind you of the event.
  • Feeling guilt or shame; having negative feelings about yourself.
  • Feeling jittery, hyper alert, always on guard for danger; trouble sleeping or concentrating.

Symptoms must occur for at least a month in order to qualify for a diagnosis of post-traumatic stress disorder.

How can I prevent Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder?

The National Institutes of Health (NIH) suggests that people who build their resilience through the following activities may reduce their risk of developing PTSD:

  • Getting support from friends and family members, or attending a support group.
  • Building a positive coping strategy to get through the event and learn from it.
  • Learning to respond appropriately even if you are afraid.
  • Learning how to feel good about your response in the presence of danger.

How is Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder treated?

According to the NIH, the treatments used most often include:

  • Prescription drug therapy with anti-depressants
  • Psychotherapy (“talk therapy”)

Types of psychotherapy include:

  • Exposure therapy (helping you face and control your fear response in “triggering” situations)
  • Cognitive behavioral therapy

Your doctor may recommend one or a combination of several types of PTSD treatment depending on the severity of your symptoms and your response to therapy.

Does Medicare cover Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder treatment?

Medicare Part B generally covers depression screening once each year at no cost to you if your doctor accepts Medicare assignment. Part B also may cover counseling, individual and group therapy, intensive outpatient or partial hospitalization therapy, and certain tests your doctor believes are medically necessary to treat your post-traumatic stress disorder; you may be responsible for copayments, coinsurance, and deductibles.

Part A, hospital insurance, might cover mental health care you receive as an inpatient in a hospital, subject to lifetime maximum benefits. You may have copayments, coinsurance, and deductibles, as well.

If you are covered under a Medicare Prescription Drug Plan, your post-traumatic stress disorder medications may be covered if they are included in your plan’s formulary, or list of covered prescription drugs. Be advised, your plan formulary may change from time to time, but you will be notified in writing when it does.

Need more information about Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder and Medicare? I’m happy to assist you. You can get PTSD information via email, or schedule a phone call at your convenience, by clicking the appropriate link. To see a list of plans in your area, click the “Compare Plans” button.

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