Post Traumatic Stress Disorder is often referred to by the initials PTSD. The National Institutes of Mental Health defines PTSD as “an anxiety disorder that can develop after a terrifying event or ordeal in which grave physical harm occurred or was threatened”.
Post Traumatic Stress Disorder doesn’t just affect troops returning from Iraq or Afghanistan, it can affect anyone who has been placed in a life threatening position. This can include survivors of sexual assault, natural disasters and domestic violence among other major crimes or natural occurrences.
The symptoms of PTSD can range from mild to severe. If left untreated, the emotional distress can be so severe that it can cause long-term disability.
Some of the symptoms include:
Avoiding places that bring back memories of the event.
Intrusive thoughts called flashbacks. These are the flashes of memory that cause the PTSD sufferer to momentarily relive the trauma. Physical manifestations can include heart racing, palpitations, sweating or other symptoms of anxiety. A flashback may trigger a “fight or flight’ response.
Hypervigilance. This is where the person who has PTSD is always on the alert. The sufferer may be easily startled and have a startle response that is disproportionate to the situation. He or she may also feel as though they are always on edge or unable to let their guard down.
Sleeping problems are common among people with PTSD. It may be impossible for the person with this disorder to get a full night of sleep without professional help.
Anger is a common feeling. He or she may be angry at the event(s) that caused the PTSD to develop. Other personal problems, difficulties in finding or keeping a job and life stresses can also cause anger.
Problems concentrating. Often, people with PTSD will find it hard to concentrate. They may lose track of objects, items or have problems following conversations. The end result may be that the person appears to be scattered or disorganized.
Employment and relationship problems happen frequently. Problems concentrating, hypervigilance, anger and other symptoms can make it hard for a person with PTSD to keep a job or maintain a healthy relationship. Compounding the problems for sufferers is that a cycle of job loss and broken relationships sometimes becomes a cycle.
Drug and alcohol use can be high among PTSD sufferers. This is sometimes an attempt to self-medicate the emotional pain that goes along with the disorder.
The good news is that help is available. Mental Health professionals are finding ways to help people with PTSD lead productive lives.
More information about Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) can be found at the links in the resource section.
National Institutes of mental Health
National Center for PTSD