What is PTSD?
The National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) defines Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) as a disorder that develops in some people who have experienced a shocking, scary, or dangerous event. Most people will experience a range of reactions after trauma and recover from initial symptoms naturally, however, those who continue to experience problems and feel stressed or frightened even when they are not in danger may be diagnosed with PTSD. To be diagnosed with PTSD, an adult must have all of the following for at least 1 month:
At least one re-experiencing symptom
At least one avoidance symptom
At least two arousal and reactivity symptoms
At least two cognition and mood symptoms
Not every traumatized person develops ongoing (chronic) or even short-term (acute) PTSD. Not everyone with PTSD has been through a dangerous event. Some experiences, like the sudden, unexpected death of a loved one, can also cause PTSD.
Symptoms of PTSD
Symptoms usually begin early, within 3 months of the traumatic incident, but sometimes they begin years afterward. Symptoms must last more than a month and be severe enough to interfere with relationships or work to be considered PTSD.
Arousal and Reactivity Symptoms
Flashbacks—reliving the trauma over and over, including physical symptoms like a racing heart or sweating
Being easily startled
Feeling tense or “on edge”
Having difficulty sleeping
Having angry outbursts
Cognition and Mood Symptoms
Staying away from places, events, or objects that are reminders of the traumatic experience
Avoiding thoughts or feelings related to the traumatic event
Trouble remembering key features of the traumatic event
Negative thoughts about oneself or the world
Anxiety and distorted feelings like guilt or blame
Loss of interest in enjoyable activities
PTSD Facts & Stats
PTSD and Military
PTSD and First Responders
PTSD and Women
The PTB Approach
Although the hallmark of post-traumatic stress disorder is having experienced or witnessed a traumatic event, there are a variety of distressing symptoms that someone with PTSD will experience after the event. Understanding that some of these symptoms may overlap with other mental health conditions and it is important that a thorough evaluation is done to make sure the diagnosis of PTSD is accurate.
In addition to using the DSM-5 manual to assess for PTSD criteria, a medical professional will likely want to complete a physical examination to check for medical problems that could be contributing to or causing symptoms. There is a growing body of research suggesting that EEG-related technologies can provide a complementary view of brain function alongside standard screenings and assessments measuring anxiety and depression, often associated with PTSD. EEG studies have found a link between hemispheric asymmetry in frontal regions of the cortex and PTSD symptoms.
PTSD and F3/F4 Alpha Power
EEG studies have shown a link between hemispheric asymmetry in frontal regions of the cortex and depression symptoms suggesting PTSD is meaningfully related to relative frontal EEG asymmetry at rest. Research shows an atypical pattern of resting frontal cortical asymmetry can serve as a risk factor for the development of depression or other emotion-related disturbances where hemispheric specialization for cortical systems mediates motivational and emotional processes.
Differences in Alpha power between the left and ride sides of the brain can give information about emotional states. Large differences in Alpha power between the left-front and right-front of the brain have been associated with anxiety and depression, often correlated with PTSD. Studies have linked PTSD with decreases in low-frequency waves, notably in the right temporoparietal region. The differences in the levels of the waves may explain some of the symptoms of anxiety for someone with PTSD.
PTSD and Audio P300
The Audio P300 research has shown that an increase in latency and/or a decrease in amplitude has been observed in various conditions associated with brain trauma. Research shows injured participants often pass clinical tests while still displaying electrophysiological deficits, and that ERPs from EEGs constituting a useful adjunct in monitoring the clinical course and recovery of trauma in following physical traumatic events.
EEG scans can show significant changes in P300 amplitude, typically a reduction from a baseline EEG scan, following a traumatic incident. P300 measurements normalize through progressive treatment and management of injured patients. Findings conclude that EEGs and P300 amplitude can establish normalized data to be used as a marker in determining brain trauma if and abnormalities and changes appear following a concussive incident.
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