Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)

Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) used to be called shell shock or battle fatigue syndrome. This type of anxiety disorder develops after a person has witnessed or experienced a traumatic or horrific event that involved serious physical harm or threat. PTSD is a lasting effect of these types of traumatic situations. It is the long-term reaction to high levels of fear, helplessness, or terror. Situations that may result in this include sexual or physical assault, war, accident, the sudden death of a loved one, or natural disaster. The victim is not the only person that can develop this condition. PTSD can affect the families of victims, as well as emergency personnel and rescuers.

When most people experience trauma, they may feel anger, shock, fear, nervousness, and guilt. These common emotional reactions occur in most cases. They subside with time. A person with post-traumatic stress disorder, however, experiences an increase of these feelings. The increase is so dramatic that it keeps the person from functioning normally. Everyday life is disrupted. Symptoms go on for over a month and the victim cannot function as in the past.

The symptoms of PTSD usually begin within three months of the traumatic event. In some cases, the symptoms do not begin until several years after the trauma. The duration and intensity of the symptoms vary from one person to the other. Some people get better within six months, while others suffer for a longer period. The symptoms of this type of anxiety are usually divided into three categories:

Re-living or re-playing: Individuals with PTSD repeatedly re-live the ordeal in their heads. They have memories of the trauma that haunt them. These include hallucinations, nightmares, and flashbacks. They may also feel grave discomfort and anxiety when they face triggers of the trauma, like the anniversary date of the event.

Avoidance: Because of the distress and anxiety, the person feels in the face of people, places, or situations that bring memories of the trauma, the person may isolate from family and friends. Further, he or she may not enjoy certain activities anymore.

Arousal: This refers to the excessive emotions the victim may feel. He or she may have issues when it comes to relating to others. It may be difficult for him or her to feel or show love and affection. Irritability and lack of sleep may be issues, as well. Further, the person may have sudden outbursts of anger and may be startled easily. Physical symptoms connected to arousal include increased heart rate and blood pressure, rapid breathing, as well as tense muscles, diarrhea, and nausea.

Post-traumatic stress disorder first entered the medical spotlight due to the condition of war veterans. This is why it used to be called shell shock and battle fatigue syndrome. PTSD, however, occurs in the case of various types of traumatic events. Individuals who have experienced abuse during their childhood, as well as people who have repeatedly found themselves in life-threatening situations are at a higher risk for developing this condition. Victims of trauma connected to physical and sexual abuse have the highest chance of developing PTSD.