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What is Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder?

What is Post-traumatic Stress Disorder?

Post-traumatic stress disorder, or PTSD, is an anxiety disorder that a person develops after witnessing a very stressful and terrifying event. In most cases, the person must have faced a life-threatening event or an incident in which serious injury was involved. Events that trigger fear, helplessness, or unexpected death of a loved one usually have a long lasting effect on the mind. In some cases, close family members of the victims of assault or trauma also develop this disorder. PTSD can be caused by events like natural disasters, being a witness to deaths, physical and sexual assaults, domestic abuse, war, serious accidents, and terrorist attacks.

The first response to a traumatic event is shock, fear, nervousness, and anger. These reactions disappear with time and the person gets back to a normal routine. In the case of PTSD, the person retains the feelings for a long time and in many of them, the feelings intensify to such an extent that it starts affecting their day-to-day activities. They live in the memories of the event and the reactions persist for more than a month. It is evident that the person is not able to function normally as they used to before the event.

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You can identify PTSD by the symptoms in which the affected person usually relives or avoids the experience and associated feelings. The symptoms develop within the first three months after the event. The severity of the symptoms varies depending on the individual.

Some of the common symptoms of PTSD include:

  • Symptoms that relive the experience – People affected by PTSD usually have flashbacks and hallucinations that bring back memories of the traumatic event. They tend to react very strongly in the presence of things and incidents that remind them of the stressful event. They also have repeated nightmares about the event.
  • Symptoms that help them to avoid the experience – Any event, location, thoughts, or situations that are distantly related to the traumatic incident will be deliberately avoided by a person with PTSD. This makes them more or less numb to other people's feelings, and they tend to remain detached from close relatives and friends as well. Activities that the individual once enjoyed will now become a stressful activity for them.
  • Symptoms showing increased emotions – People with PTSD often show sudden expressions of anger, irritability, and difficulty in expressing their affection towards others. They are easily startled and find it difficult to concentrate on the task at hand. Sleeping problems, including having trouble falling asleep, are also very common among these people.
  • Symptoms of stress and anxiety – Agitation, dizziness, and headaches are also seen symptoms in some of them.
  • Symptoms of physical distress – This includes rapid breathing, nausea, diarrhea, and increased blood pressure and heart rate.