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Understanding PTSD

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Fighting on Behalf of Those Suffering Trauma-Induced Physiological Disorders

Many people may not realize that accidents can result in more than just physical impairment—they can also have adverse physiological effects. Mental and emotional distress can sometimes be more debilitating and life-altering than even severe physical injury. Therefore, if you or someone you love has been physiologically traumatized in an accident, you should not wait to contact our firm as soon as possible. At Arnold & Itkin, our Houston injury attorneys pride themselves on providing nothing but the best legal representation to those who need it most.

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Understanding Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)

Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is an anxiety illness resulting from an extreme physiological experience.

Some experiences that cause PTSD include the following:

  • Suffering from sexual or physical abuse
  • Being in a serious accident, such as a car crash
  • Sustaining a critical injury or seeing someone injured
  • Surviving an explosion or another disastrous event

The Four Main Symptoms of PTSD

The effects of PTSD occur after the event occurs, sometimes within the immediate days and weeks following, but occasionally months or years later. A traumatic experience resulting in PTSD actually “rewires” the way someone’s brain processes, causing the disorder to become a “part” of the patient’s thinking.

This psychological disorder is characterized by four symptoms that drastically alter a patient’s life:

  • Reliving the Event
    Memories are strong visions that bring people back to “re-experience” an event. While memories can be joyous, those with PTSD are typically haunted by their trauma. The events that caused the brain to succumb to PTSD will repeatedly occur in the mind of the affected. Some patients find themselves reliving the events while they are awake, having flashbacks that can be triggered by any number of sounds, smells, or tastes. Other individuals will relive their traumatic events in their sleep, having “nightmares” that force them to witness the incident again.
  • Avoidance Behavior
    Another symptom is avoiding people or places that remind the affected of their original trauma. For example, if someone suffers PTSD from a traffic accident, they may be unwilling to get into a car. In extreme cases, the affected may be unwilling to watch shows or movies where accidents are shown on screen. People may also avoid interacting with individuals who were connected to the trauma.
  • Emotional Detachment
    People with PTSD experience drastic changes in how they express themselves emotionally. After the trauma, those with PTSD may find activities they used to enjoy disinteresting and unfulfilling. Close friends and family members may be treated as strangers by a loved one who suffered a traumatic experience. In some cases, people with PTSD may be completely unable to talk about their incident to others or have entirely forgotten important details about their affliction.
  • Hyperarousal
    Hyperarousal can be defined as being exceptionally on edge. PTSD patients may find themselves becoming irrationally angry for no apparent reason. On the other side, people living with PTSD may be prone to extreme fright. Seemingly abrupt changes to environments or plans can terrify someone with PTSD, causing them to break down with little provocation. This constant state of arousal can make the affected shake uncontrollably and find difficulty concentrating on simple tasks.

Although these four symptoms represent the main changes in behavior, people with PTSD might alter their actions in other ways. Due to the extreme lows, some people turn to coping mechanisms such as drugs and alcohol. In addition to the symptoms mentioned, this behavior can make those who suffer from PTSD unemployable. In some cases, families and friends of the affected may sever ties with their loved one.

Common Treatments for Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT)

CBT is based on the idea that psychological conditions develop because of how people interpret and evaluate situations, thoughts, and behaviors. CBT aims to help people learn healthier ways of coping with distressing emotions and how to reduce avoidance behaviors and other problematic actions, like substance abuse.

Three different therapies fall under the heading of CBT:

  • Exposure Therapy - Exposure therapy is designed to reduce the level of fear and anxiety associated with PTSD-related “triggers,” which are situations, sounds, or even people who bring on reminders of the traumatic event. The fear reduction is accomplished by exposing patients to triggers and working through the associated fears and anxieties in a therapeutic environment.
  • Stress Inoculation Training (SIT) - The goal of SIT is to help people with PTSD gain confidence in their ability to deal with the anxiety and fear that accompany reminders of the original trauma. A therapist will help the person with PTSD become aware of their triggers so they can immediately recognize those signs and quickly address them with coping or relaxing techniques.
  • Cognitive-Processing Therapy (CPT) - CPT was developed specifically for people living with PTSD who experienced sexual assault. It is a 12-step program that helps victims address negative emotions.

Eye Movement Desensitization & Reprocessing (EMDR)

EMDR, discovered in 1987, is an eight-stage therapy treatment specifically designed for people with PTSD, developed by Dr. Fran Shapiro, who has PTSD. In the first stage of therapy, the person with PTSD identifies which experiences are stressful; they also discuss the symptoms and thoughts from which they want to be freed.

Next, the patient and therapist discuss the traumatic experiences. The following three stages discuss beliefs, feelings, and sensations related to the trauma. The patient then reflects on these items while focusing on the therapist’s finger as it moves back and forth. The hypnotic finger movement is repeated until the thoughts are no longer stressful; at this point, the patient thinks of a positive belief agreed upon before this stage.

Finally, the patient writes down any feelings or thoughts that are still stressful, and changes to the client’s emotional situation are then discussed. The eight stages of EMDR can be repeated several times.

Medication

If non-pharmaceutical treatments are not fully assisting in PTSD recovery, drug therapy may be indicated.

Several medications may be employed, including:

  • Antidepressants
  • Anxiolytics (anti-anxiety pills)
  • Anticonvulsants
  • Antipsychotics

Some of the most common drugs include:

  • Paxil
  • Prozac
  • Zoloft
  • Lexapro
  • Sinequan
  • Cymbalta
  • Wellbutrin
  • Ativan
  • Halcion
  • Xanax
  • Depakote
  • Abilify
  • Risperdal
  • Zyprexa

Frequently Asked Questions About PTSD

What Is Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder?

PTSD is an anxiety disorder that manifests after someone has gone through a life-threatening or fear-inducing event. PTSD results from damage to the “fight or flight” response, which causes people to relive traumatic events repeatedly. People with PTSD suffer from episodes where their fear response will be “triggered” by non-threatening stimuli, subjecting them to anxiety and stress on a near-constant basis.

What Are the Signs & Symptoms of PTSD?

PTSD manifests in various ways, but the most common sign is the involuntary re-experience of the trauma. These flashbacks may trigger physical responses, like a faster heart rate or sweating, and are often intrusive. Other signs of PTSD include hyperarousal, mood swings, angry outbursts, constant tension, and frequent nightmares.

What Makes Some People Get PTSD & Others Not?

Not every accident survivor will have PTSD. People with PTSD often have risk factors for PTSD, while those without PTSD often have certain “resilience factors.” Risk factors for PTSD include witnessing people dying or getting hurt, living through life-threatening events, experiencing extreme fear or terror, or having a history of mental illness. One or any of these factors make it more likely you’ll develop PTSD after an accident.

How Long Does PTSD Last?

It depends. If a person doesn’t receive treatment, they can suffer for life. With the right help, those with PTSD can learn to manage the condition, and its effects can diminish over time. However, some people find that their PTSD becomes worse with time in some instances. If you believe you have PTSD, it’s crucial to reach out to a doctor as soon as possible. Take this opportunity to learn more about your options and rights after a serious injury.

Psychological Disorders

Psychological disorders are a natural side effect of certain accidents, leaving many with difficult emotional conditions. For example, a traumatic brain injury can result in serious behavioral problems and drastic changes in personality. This goes beyond the extent of post-traumatic stress disorder but can also include it. Emotional instability, depression, bipolar disorder, obsessive-compulsive disorder, and other anxiety disorders can all result from traumatic events in a person’s life. A key cause of many psychological disorders in the U.S. is trauma. So much so that this warranted its classification of mental illness, called the trauma model of mental disorders.

Below, we explain some psychological disorders other than PTSD that traumatic accidents can cause.

Acute Stress Reaction

Acute stress reaction (also called acute stress disorder or shock) is a psychological condition that develops in response to a traumatic event. Witnessing the event may cause an individual to experience extreme fear, stress, and pain. Acute stress disorder is a type of post-traumatic stress disorder. It can manifest with a wide variety of symptoms; typically, the condition begins with a dazed state, limits on consciousness, an inability to understand and respond to stimuli. Shortly after the initial trauma, the initial state will transition to either further withdrawal from surroundings or a move to agitation, hyperactivity, anxiety, confusion, depression, and detachment.

Displaying signs of panic (flushing, sweating, and a racing heartbeat) is also typical of individuals experiencing an acute stress reaction. Symptoms of an acute stress reaction usually disappear in two to three days. If they persist for longer and last up to but not longer than four weeks, a person is suffering from an acute stress disorder. Symptoms that last longer than a month probably indicate post-traumatic stress disorder.

Depressive Disorders: Dysthymia, Psychotic Depression & Bipolar Disorder

Depression is a clinical disorder that negatively impacts a person’s thoughts and behaviors and can even harm their physical well-being. These disorders are serious conditions that usually require medical treatment to improve a sufferer’s condition. While some depressive disorders can be treated with therapy, individuals suffering from more severe conditions will likely need prescription medication to treat their symptoms.

Some of the most common types of depressive disorders include:

  • Major Depression
    Depression is manifested by many symptoms—all of which combine to interfere with a person’s ability to work, study, sleep, eat, or enjoy activities that once gave them pleasure. It may prove to be a one-time occurrence in a person’s life or may continue to occur repeatedly.
  • Dysthymic Disorder (Dysthymia)
    Mild depressive symptoms that last more than two years. These symptoms do not disable.
  • Psychotic Depression
    Severe depressive illness accompanied by psychotic symptoms such as hallucinations.
  • Postpartum Depression
    A depressive condition which a new mother develops within one month of delivering a child.
  • Seasonal Affective Disorder
    The onset of a depressive illness occurs when less natural light is present during winter months.
  • Bipolar Disorder
    Characterized by cycling mood changes that range from severe highs to extreme lows.

Dissociative Disorders

Dissociation describes a wide variety of behaviors that allows a person to become detached from their physical or emotional reality. When a person has a dissociative disorder, their use of dissociation is both pathological and involuntary. Dissociative disorders interrupt or cause the breakdown of memory, awareness, identity, and perception. These are primarily thought to be caused by psychological trauma. Treatments usually involve therapy and a combination of psychosocial and pharmacological treatments. There are no known cures for dissociative disorders, but long-term therapy treatments can successfully manage symptoms.

There are five different types of dissociative disorders:

  • Depersonalization Disorder
    A person experiences periods of detachment while still understanding it is a feeling, not reality.
  • Dissociative Amnesia
    Amnesia that is caused by emotional trauma.
  • Dissociative Fugue
    The individual abandons familiar surroundings and has difficulties recalling the past. This condition sometimes leads to confusion about one’s identity, occasionally resulting in a new one.
  • Dissociative Identity Disorder
    The individual who suffers from this disorder alternates between two or more distinct personalities and cannot recall important information between personalities.

Psychosis

Psychosis is a loss of contact with reality. People with psychosis typically develop delusions and hallucinations.

Many different causes may trigger psychosis, including:

  • Certain psychiatric disorders
  • Drugs or alcohol
  • Brain tumors
  • Dementia
  • Infections that affect the brain
  • Certain prescription medications

Symptoms that may indicate a person has psychosis include:

  • Disorganized thoughts and speech
  • Particularly unfounded fears and paranoia
  • False beliefs
  • Seeing or hearing things that aren’t there

Caregivers must understand what is causing the psychotic episode. Psychiatric evaluations, blood tests, drug screenings, or MRIs may help determine the cause of psychotic behaviors. Once the cause has been discovered, a treatment plan can be developed. Most psychotic patients will need to be hospitalized to prevent harm to themselves and others. Antipsychotic drugs help manage the symptoms of psychosis, regardless of the underlying cause. If the cause of the psychosis is reversible, patients stand a chance at recovery. If, however, the cause of the psychosis is a condition like schizophrenia, lifelong care or treatment may be required.

Contact an Attorney for Your PTSD Case: (888) 493-1629

PTSD is disabling and can be brought on by any accident or traumatic event. Individuals who have PTSD can experience relief from symptoms, in some cases making a full recovery, but only with the proper treatment. Physicians specializing in treating people with PTSD frequently recommend Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) or Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR). Certain medications, like Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors (SSRIs), may also help people with PTSD cope with their symptoms and achieve recovery.

If you or a loved one has been diagnosed with PTSD, you may be entitled to receive compensation. At Arnold & Itkin, we are here to get you the financial compensation you deserve. There is no risk in giving us a call, so call today. We are here to help you get through this, and we won’t settle for less than the best for you.

You don’t have to face this alone. Call (888) 493-1629!

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