What You Need to Know About Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder

Causes of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder

Post-traumatic stress disorder was first brought to public attention by war veterans, but it can result from any number of traumatic incidents. These include violent attacks, such as:
 
  • Mugging, rape, or torture
  • Being kidnapped or held captive
  • Child abuse
  • Serious accidents, such as car or train wrecks
  • Natural disasters, such as floods or earthquakes.
     
The event that triggers the condition may be something that threatened the person's life or the life of someone close to him or her. Or it could be something witnessed, such as massive death and destruction after a building is bombed or a plane crashes.
 

Symptoms of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder

Whatever the source of the problem, some people with post-traumatic stress disorder repeatedly relive the trauma in the form of nightmares and disturbing recollections during the day. They may also experience:
 
  • Sleep problems
  • Feeling detached or numb
  • Being easily startled
  • Losing interest in things they used to enjoy
  • Having trouble feeling affectionate
  • Irritability
  • Being more aggressive than before, or even violent.
     
Things that remind people with PTSD of the trauma may be distressing, which could lead them to avoid certain places or situations that bring back those memories. Anniversaries of the traumatic event are often difficult as well.
 
 

Diagnosing Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder

Post-traumatic stress disorder is diagnosed only if the symptoms last more than a month. In those who do develop the condition, symptoms usually begin within three months of the trauma, and the course of the illness varies. Some people recover within six months, while others have symptoms that last much longer. In some cases, post-traumatic stress disorder may be chronic. Occasionally, the illness doesn't show up until years after the traumatic event.
 
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