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What is Posttraumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)?

Posttraumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) is an anxiety disorder that can occur following the experience or witnessing of a traumatic event. A traumatic event could be:

    a life-threatening event such as military combat,
    natural disasters,
    terrorist incidents,
    serious accidents,
    or physical or sexual assault in adult or childhood.

Most people who expierince trauma cope given a little time however, some individuals will have stress reactions that do not go away on their own, or may even get worse over time. These individuals may develop PTSD.

PTSD shows itself though three different kinds of symptoms.
    The first set of symptoms are about reliving the trauma in some way. This could be becoming upset when confronted with a traumatic reminder of the initial event or thinking about the trauma when you are trying to do something else.
    The second set of symptoms involves either avoidance of places or people that remind you of the trauma, isolating from other people all together, or feeling numb.
    The third set of symptoms includes things such as feeling on guard, irritable, or startling easily.
Besides these symptoms, it is now known that there are clear biological changes that are associated with PTSD. PTSD is complicated by the fact that people with PTSD often may develop additional disorders such as depression, substance abuse, problems of memory and cognition, and other problems of physical and mental health. These problems may lead to impairment of the person’s ability to function in social or family life, including occupational instability, marital problems and family problems. PTSD can be treated with with psychotherapy (‘talk’ therapy) and medicines such as antidepressants. Early treatment is important and may help reduce long-term symptoms. Unfortunately, many people do not know that they have PTSD or do not seek treatment.