Trauma is often a lasting catastrophe that exposes an individual to death, destruction, or loss of home and community. Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, or PTSD, is a psychological condition that occurs when facing deb



  1. Intrusion: Intrusive thoughts such as repeated, involuntary memories; distressing dreams; or flashbacks of the traumatic event. Flashbacks may be so vivid that people feel they are re-living the traumatic experience or seeing it before their eyes.

  2. Avoidance: Avoiding reminders of the traumatic event may include avoiding people, places, activities, objects and situations that may trigger distressing memories. People may try to avoid remembering or thinking about the traumatic event. They may resist talking about what happened or how they feel about it.

  3. Alterations in cognition and mood: Inability to remember important aspects of the traumatic event, negative thoughts and feelings leading to ongoing and distorted beliefs about oneself or others (e.g., “I am bad,” “No one can be trusted”); distorted thoughts about the cause or consequences of the event leading to wrongly blaming self or other; ongoing fear, horror, anger, guilt or shame; much less interest in activities previously enjoyed; feeling detached or estranged from others; or being unable to experience positive emotions (a void of happiness or satisfaction).

  4. Alterations in arousal and reactivity: Arousal and reactive symptoms may include being irritable and having angry outbursts; behaving recklessly or in a self-destructive way; being overly watchful of one's surroundings in a suspecting way; being easily startled; or having problems concentrating or sleeping.



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  • Involves persistent reexperiencing of the traumatic event:

      • Avoidance of stimuli associated with the trauma

      • Emotional numbing 

      • Treated with a combination of medication and therapy

      • Symptoms of increased arousal

        • Jumpiness, easily startled, being on edge

Uncomplicated PTSD

    Combination of PTSD and other psychiatric disorders

    • Depression

    • Alcohol or substance abuse 

    • Panic disorder

    • Other anxiety disorders

Comorbid PTSD​

    Characterized by:

    • Panic reactions

    • Mental confusion

    • Dissociation

    • Severe insomnia

    • Suspiciousness

    • Unable to manage basic self care/ work/ relationships 

Acute Stress Disorder​

    Occurs when healthy adults who have been exposed to a single discrete traumatic event in adulthood experience: 

    • intense bad memories

    • emotional numbing

    • feelings of unreality

    • being cut off from relationships

    • bodily tension and distress 

    • Patients usually achieve complete recovery within a few weeks

Normal Stress Response

    Affects those who have been exposed to prolonged traumatic circumstances, esp. during childhood (e.g. childhood sexual abuse) 

    • Patients often are diagnosed with borderline or antisocial personality disorder or dissociative disorders

    • Exhibit behavioral difficulties: 

      • Impulsivity, aggression, acting out sexually, eating disorders, alcohol/drug abuse, self-destructive actions

    • Extreme emotional difficulties:

      • Intense rage, depression, or panic

    • Mental difficulties:

      • Fragmented thoughts, dissociation, amnesia

    • Treatment often takes much longer, may progress at a much slower rate

      • Requires a sensitive/highly structured treatment program delivered by team of trauma specialists

Complex PTSD (aka “Disorder of Extreme Stress”)


Misconception vs. Reality

“PTSD only occurs in veterans.”
Anyone is susceptible to PTSD. Not all veterans suffer with PTSD and not all people with PTSD are veterans.

“PTSD is only flashbacks.”
Flashbacks don’t even always occur in people who suffer from PTSD.

“PTSD can’t occur with younger people.”

PTSD in children is quite possible due to child abuse, sexual abuse, seirous accidents, or injuries. The most prevalent symptoms in kids are nightmares, avoidance

“PTSD is just when people exaggerate their trauma for attention.”

PTSD is real, valid, and serious. Trauma will show up later in life, but PTSD is specifically the condition in whicih the presentation of trauma becomes an interference.

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PTSD Treatment



Cognitive Restructuring

Cognitive Processing Therapy (CPT)

Exposure Therapy

Stress Inoculation Training (SIT)

Prolonged Exposure (PE)

Present Centered Therapy (PCT)

Eye movement desensitization and reprocessing (EMDR).



Anti-anxiety medications. 


Best results are achieved when both PTSD and other disorder(s) are treated together, rather than one after the other

Especially true for PTSD and alcohol/substance abuse



Project Calendula is intended to be a prelude for your mental health journey by guiding your education and advocacy. We are not a mental health service. 

If you or someone you know are in crisis, please call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline (U.S.): 800-273-8255

If you or someone you know are struggling, please visit the resources at the bottom of this section to find a mental health professional near you.

Please visit any of the following websites for further information on mental illness education.


Recovery Resources for BPD from the National Education Alliance for Borderline Personality Disorder:


BPD Resources (Books, Websites, Help For Families) from the NewYork-Presbyterian:


Borderline Personality Disorder Resources (Help Lines, Online Information, Advocacy, Books, Articles and Guides) from Here to Help: