What is Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)?
After a trauma or life threatening event it is common to have upsetting memories of what happened, to have trouble sleeping, to feel jumpy, or to lose interest in things you used to enjoy. For some people these reactions do not go away on their own, or may even get worse over time. These people may have Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD).
Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) is an anxiety disorder that can occur after you have been through a traumatic event. A traumatic event is something horrible and scary that you see or that happens to you. During this type of event, you think that your life or others' lives are in danger. You may feel afraid or feel that you have no control over what is happening.
Anyone who has gone through a life-threatening event can develop PTSD. These events can include:
* Combat or military exposure
* Child sexual or physical abuse
* Terrorist attacks
* Sexual or physical assault
* Serious accidents, such as a car wreck.
* Natural disasters, such as a fire, tornado, hurricane, flood, or earthquake.
After the event, you may feel scared, confused, and angry. If these feelings don't go away or they get worse, you may have PTSD. These symptoms may disrupt your life, making it hard to continue with your daily activities.
What are the symptoms of PTSD?
Symptoms of post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) can be terrifying. They may disrupt your life and make it hard to continue with your daily activities. It may be hard just to get through the day.
PTSD symptoms usually start soon after the traumatic event, but they may not happen until months or years later. They also may come and go over many years. If the symptoms last longer than 4 weeks, cause you great distress, or interfere with your work or home life, you probably have PTSD.
Even if you always have some symptoms, counseling can help you cope. Your symptoms don't have to interfere with your everyday activities, work, and relationships. Most people who go through a traumatic event have some symptoms at the beginning but don't develop PTSD.
There are four types of symptoms: re-living symptoms, avoidance symptoms, numbing symptoms, and feeling keyed up.
Reliving the event (also called re-experiencing symptoms):
Bad memories of the traumatic event can come back at any time. You may feel the same fear and horror you did when the event took place. You may feel like you're going through the event again. This is called a flashback. Sometimes there is a trigger: a sound or sight that causes you to relive the event.
Triggers might include:
* Hearing a car backfire, which can bring back memories of gunfire and war for a combat veteran
* Seeing a car accident, which can remind a crash survivor of his or her own accident
* Seeing a news report of a sexual assault, which may bring back memories of assault for a woman who was raped.
Avoiding situations that remind you of the event:
You may try to avoid situations or people that trigger memories of the traumatic event. You may even avoid talking or thinking about the event.
* A person who was in an earthquake may avoid watching television shows or movies in which there are earthquakes
* A person who was robbed at gunpoint while ordering at a hamburger drive-in may avoid fast-food restaurants
* Some people may keep very busy or avoid seeking help. This keeps them from having to think or talk about the event.
You may find it hard to express your feelings. This is another way to avoid memories.
* You may not have positive or loving feelings toward other people and may stay away from relationships
* You may not be interested in activities you used to enjoy
* You may forget about parts of the traumatic event or not be able to talk about them.
Feeling keyed up (also called arousal or hyper-arousal symptoms):
You always may be alert and on the lookout for danger. This is known as increased emotional arousal. It can cause you to:
* Suddenly become angry or irritable
* Have a hard time sleeping
* Have trouble concentrating
* Fear for your safety and always feel on guard
* Be very startled when someone surprises you
To find out more about PTSD check out
National Center on Post Traumatic Stress Disorder:
National Institute of Mental Health:
Gateway to Post Traumatic Stress Disorder Information:
Military Veterans PTSD Reference Manual:
Iraq War Veterans Org. PTSD:
Vietnam Veterans Against the War-Military Counseling: