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 Anxiety  Holistic-online.com

Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)

Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), also known as shell shock or battle fatigue, is a debilitating condition that follows a terrifying event. Often, people with PTSD have persistent frightening thoughts and memories of their ordeal and feel emotionally numb, especially with people they were once close to. 

PTSD was first brought to public attention by war veterans. But it can result from any number of traumatic incidents.

People may get PTSD after living through a terrible and scary experience. You can get PTSD after you have been:

bulletRaped or sexually abused
bulletKidnapped
bulletHit or harmed by someone in your family
bulletA victim of a violent crime as a mugging, rape, or torture, or being held captive
bulletIn an airplane, train, bus or car crash
bulletIn natural disasters such as a hurricane, tornado, earthquake, or fire
bulletIn a war
bulletIn an event where you thought you might be killed such as in an accident at work where you have narrowly escaped from death.
bulletOr after you have seen any of these events

The event that triggers PTSD may be something that threatened the person's life or the life of someone close to him or her. Or it could be something witnessed, such as the mass destruction the world witnessed during the terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center on September 11, 2001.

Whatever the source of the problem, some people with PTSD repeatedly relive the trauma in the form of nightmares and disturbing recollections during the day. They may also experience sleep problems, depression, feeling detached or numb, or being easily startled. They may lose interest in things they used to enjoy and have trouble feeling affectionate. They may feel irritable, more aggressive than before, or even violent. Seeing things that remind them of the incident may be very distressing, which could lead them to avoid certain places or situations that bring back those memories. Anniversaries of the event are often very difficult.

People with PTSD may feel angry and unable to care about or trust other people. They are always on the lookout for danger. They feel very upset when something happens without warning.

PTSD can occur at any age, including childhood. The disorder can be accompanied by depression, substance abuse, or anxiety. Symptoms may be mild or severe-people may become easily irritated or have violent outbursts. In severe cases they may have trouble working or socializing. In general, the symptoms seem to be worse if the event that triggered them was initiated by a person-such as a rape, as opposed to a flood. 
Ordinary events can serve as reminders of the trauma and trigger flashbacks or intrusive images. A flashback may make the person lose touch with reality and reenact the event for a period of seconds or hours or, very rarely, days. A person having a flashback, which can come in the form of images, sounds, smells, or feelings, usually believes that the traumatic event is happening all over again.

About 3.6 percent of U.S. adults ages 18 to 54 (5.2 million people) have PTSD during the course of a given year. About 30 percent of the men and women who have spent time in war zones experience PTSD. One million war veterans developed PTSD after serving in Vietnam. PTSD has also been detected among veterans of the Persian Gulf War, with some estimates running as high as 8 percent.

The incidence of PTSD in the general population is expected to be much higher in 2001 and 2002 due to the terrorist attacks and the mass exposure to violent scenes provided by the media. The repeated showing of the planes hitting the world trade center and the towers collapsing is going to stay with the viewers for some time.

Not every traumatized person gets full-blown PTSD, or experiences PTSD at all. PTSD is diagnosed only if the symptoms last more than a month. In those who do have PTSD, symptoms usually begin within 3 months of the trauma, and the course of the illness varies. Some people recover within 6 months, others have symptoms that last much longer. In some cases, the condition may be chronic. Occasionally, the illness doesn't show up until years after the traumatic event.

It used to be believed that people who tend to be emotionally numb after a trauma were showing a healthy response, but now some researchers suspect that people who experience this emotional distancing may be more prone to PTSD.

A Simple Test for PTSD

Have you lived through a very scary and dangerous event? If yes, do you experience any of the following conditions/problems?

  1. I feel like the terrible event is happening all over again. This feeling often comes without warning.

  2. I have nightmares and scary memories of the terrifying event.

  3. I stay away from places that remind me of the event.

  4. I jump and feel very upset when something happens without warning.

  5. I have a hard time trusting or feeling close to other people.

  6. I get mad very easily.

  7. I feel guilty because others died and I lived.

  8. I have trouble sleeping and my muscles are tense.

If you answered yes to any of the questions above, you may have
Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD).

Source: NIMH

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