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Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)

What is post-traumatic stress disorder?

Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is a debilitating condition that often follows a terrifying physical or emotional event – causing the person who survived the event to have persistent, frightening thoughts and memories, or flashbacks, of the ordeal. Persons with PTSD often feel chronically, emotionally numb.

PTSD was first brought to public attention by war veterans and was once referred to as “shell shock” or “battle fatigue.” The likelihood of developing PTSD depends on the severity and duration of the event, as well as the person’s nearness to it.

What are the symptoms of PTSD?

The following are the most common symptoms of PTSD. However, each individual may

experience symptoms differently. Symptoms may include:

  • irritability
  • violent outbursts
  • trouble working or socializing
  • flashbacks or intrusive images

A person having a flashback, which can come in the form of images, sounds, smells, or feelings, usually believes that the traumatic event is happening all over again.

  • losing touch with reality
  • reenacting the event for a period of seconds or hours or, very rarely, days

The symptoms of PTSD may resemble other psychiatric conditions. Always consult your physician for a diagnosis.
How is post-traumatic stress disorder diagnosed?

Not every person who experiences a trauma develops PTSD, or experiences symptoms at all. PTSD is diagnosed only if symptoms last more than one month. In those who do have PTSD, symptoms usually begin within three months of the trauma, but can also start months or years later.

PTSD can occur at any age, including childhood, and may be accompanied by the following:

  • depression
  • substance abuse
  • anxiety

The length of the illness varies. Some people recover within six months, others have symptoms that last much longer.

Treatment for PTSD:

Specific treatment for PTSD will be determined by your physician based on:

  • your age, overall health, and medical history
  • extent of the disease
  • your tolerance for specific medications, procedures, or therapies
  • expectations for the course of the disease
  • your opinion or preference