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  What Is... - Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)

Post Traumatic Stress Disorder PTSD

Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is an anxiety disorder that can develop following traumatic or life-threatening events such as war, the unexpected death of a loved one, rape, assault, a plane crash or a natural disaster.

The normal psychological response to such trauma is "shock" or acute stress. A person may be disoriented and unable to comprehend what is going on. It is very common to feel numb, experience nightmares, and have continuous thoughts about the traumatic event. But, as the mind begins to process the event, these symptoms gradually lift.

However, with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) you remain in a state of mental shock and symptoms begin to worsen. Not every traumatized person develops PTSD, but it doesn’t always develop immediately following the trauma, either. For some, the symptoms develop several days or sometimes years later.

According to the National Institute of Mental Health, PTSD affects millions and can occur at any age, including childhood. In addition, women are more likely to develop PTSD than men, and there is some evidence that susceptibility to the disorder may be hereditary. Like many other mental health illnesses, PTSD is often accompanied by depression, substance abuse, or one or more of the other anxiety disorders.

Symptoms of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)

Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) symptoms can cause significant problems at home, work or other important areas of life.

For many, symptoms can be triggered by a loud noise, a particular image or a distinct smell that reminds them of the traumatic event; for others, symptoms may appear, seemingly, out of the blue.

Common symptoms of PTSD include:

  • Feelings of stress or fear when reminded of the trauma
     
  • Re-living the event in the form of a flashback
     
  • Nightmares of the event or other fears
     
  • Avoidance of situations that are associated with the trauma
     
  • Feeling detached or emotionally numb
     
  • Difficulty concentrating and being easily startled
     
  • Out-of-control anger or violence
     
  • Constantly on alert for danger (hypervigilance)