Answers for what it is, how to recognize it, and where to find help.

The pandemic has given rise to a marked increase in Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, or PTSD. Seth Lapic, DO, part of the team at Aurora Pavilion Behavioral Services, shares some insight on what it is, how to recognize it, and options on treatment.

Q: What exactly is PTSD and how do I know if I have it?

A: Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, or PTSD, is a psychiatric disorder that can happen in people who experience or witness a traumatic event. Often associated with combat veterans, it can also occur after natural disasters, serious accidents, dangerous threats and sexual violence. People with PTSD will often “relive” the events through nightmares and flashbacks and suffer from intense, negative thoughts and feelings. These can be set off by normal, everyday events that remind them of trauma.

PTSD does not always stem from direct trauma. Disturbing events or repeated exposure to another’s trauma can also lead to PTSD.

Q: How is PTSD treated? What happens if it is untreated?

A: PTSD is treated through evidence-based therapeutic methods. Some examples of therapy include:

  • Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT): Talking and writing about trauma, which helps process feelings and thoughts in a new way.
  • Prolonged Exposure Therapy: For patients who avoid things that remind them of a traumatic event, this helps them get over the anxiety and process it instead.
  • Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing: Thinking about your experience while watching lights or hand movements can help patients learn to think about something positive while remembering trauma. It can take weeks or months before significant improvement is seen.

However, untreated PTSD puts people at risk for depression and anxiety disorders, serious sleep problems and even suicide.

Q: Has the pandemic created more PTSD cases or made them worse?

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A: The COVID-19 pandemic has been tough on everyone, but PTSD is a particular concern for survivors of the disease. Prolonged treatment in an ICU is one of the highest factors in medical PTSD and with the large number of people admitted to area ICUs with COVID-19, we could be facing a PTSD crisis in the near future.

Q: What treatment is available in-market?

Aurora Pavilion Behavioral Health Services provides short-term inpatient hospitalization, partial hospitalization and outpatient treatment programs for a number of behavioral health disorders, including PTSD. Also available is a free, comprehensive community service called RESPOND. This resource is designed to assist you by providing no-cost mental health assessments, information and referral services for psychiatric and substance use problems. The RESPOND team of professionals are available 24 hours a day, seven days a week at 803-641-5900 or 800-273-7911.

About Dr. Lapic

Seth Lapic, DODr. Seth Lapic, DO, received his medical degree from Lake Erie College of Osteopathic Medicine, and he is a member of the South Carolina Psychiatric Association and the American Psychiatric Association.