Posttraumatic Stress Disorder

Posttraumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) is an anxiety disorder that is thought to affect between 2% and 9% of the population. PTSD occurs after experiencing an event that causes intense fear, helplessness or horror in the patient. These traumatic experiences can be experienced first hand by the patient, witnessed by the patient, or heard about by the patient. Keep in mind that not everybody that experiences, witnesses, or hears about traumatic events develops PTSD.

The people most commonly thought of when considering PTSD are combat veterans. But, PTSD is also caused by physical assaults, traffic accidents, and natural disasters. People in war torn countries also often suffer from PTSD. There were many causes of PTSD following the Oklahoma City and World Trade Center attacks. PTSD has also been known as “shell shock” and “battle fatigue”. It is important to note that people other than veterans can suffer from PTSD, including small children. It is also important to point out that while some sufferers may experience PTSD immediately following a traumatic and horrific event, PTSD can be delayed for more than 6 months after the event.

So, how can you tell if someone is suffering from PTSD? There are 3 basic categories that the symptoms of PTSD fall into:

1. Repeated ‘reliving’ of the event/Intrusion

Some patients may experience recurrent memories or nightmares of the event. Other patients may experience psychological or physiological distress when certain objects or situations remind them of the event. Very often, the “flashbacks” and stressors associated with the even are disruptive to the day-to-day living of the patient.

2. Avoidance

Some patients tend to start avoiding things such as places, people, situations, or even feelings that remind him of the event. The patient may also start to steer away from previous activities and interests.

3. Arousal

This can include difficulties with sleeping and concentrating. Patients often experience outbursts of anger. The patient may become hypersensitive and hypervigilant to his surroundings and jumpy or easily startled.

PTSD can be effectively treated with psychotherapy and/or medication.

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