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Post Traumatic Stress Disorder

What Is Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder?

Post-traumatic stress disorder is a form of anxiety disorder that is triggered by your memories of a traumatic event an event that directly affected you or one that you witnessed. The disorder commonly affects survivors of traumatic events such as sexual assault, physical assault, war, torture, natural disasters, an automobile accident, an airplane crash, a hostage situation or a death camp. The affliction also can affect rescue workers at an airplane crash or a mass shooting or someone who witnessed a tragic accident. Not everyone involved in a traumatic event experiences post-traumatic stress disorder. But post-traumatic stress disorder may affect about 1 in 25 adults in the United States. The disorder affects men and women in about the same numbers. Treatment may involve a combined approach including medications and behavior therapies designed to help you gain control of your anxiety.

Signs and Symptoms

Signs and symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder typically appear within 3 months of the traumatic event. However, in some instances, they may not occur until years after the event, and may include:

Flashbacks and distressing dreams associated with the traumatic event.
Distress at anniversaries of the trauma.
Efforts to avoid thoughts, feelings and activities associated with the trauma.
Feelings of detachment or estrangement from others, inability to have loving feelings.
Markedly diminished interest or participation in activities that once were an important source of satisfaction.
In young children, delayed or developmental retrogression in such areas as toilet training, motor skills and language.
Hopelessness about the future no hope of a family life, career or living to old age.

Increased physical and psychological arousal not present before the trauma with at least two of the following: trouble sleeping, anger, difficulty concentrating, exaggerated startle response to noise and physiologic reaction to situations that remind you of the traumatic event. Physiologic reactions may include an increase in blood pressure, rapid heart rate, rapid breathing, muscle tension, nausea and diarrhea

Risk Factors

The severity of the traumatic event and how long the event lasted appear to be factors in developing the disorder.
Other factors that may increase the likelihood of developing post-traumatic stress disorder include:

Previous history of depression or other emotional disorder Previous history of physical or sexual abuse Family history of anxiety Early separation from parents Being part of a dysfunctional family Alcohol abuse Drug abuse