Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) is an extreme anxiety disorder that can occur in the aftermath of a traumatic or life-threatening event. PTSD can be thought of as a panic attack that rarely, if ever, lets up.
Symptoms of PTSD include flashbacks or nightmares about what happened, hypervigilance, startling easily, withdrawing from others, and avoiding situations that remind you of the event.
Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is an anxiety disorder caused by very stressful, frightening or distressing events.
Someone with PTSD often relives the traumatic event through nightmares and flashbacks, and may experience feelings of isolation, irritability and guilt.
They may also have problems sleeping, such as insomnia, and find concentrating difficult.
These symptoms are often severe and persistent enough to have a significant impact on the person’s day-to-day life.
The symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) can have a significant impact on your day-to-day life.
In most cases, the symptoms develop during the first month after a traumatic event. However, in a minority of cases, there may be a delay of months or even years before symptoms start to appear.
Some people with PTSD experience long periods when their symptoms are less noticeable, followed by periods where they get worse. Other people have constant, severe symptoms.
The specific symptoms of PTSD can vary widely between individuals, but generally fall into the categories described below.
PTSD sometimes leads to work-related problems and the breakdown of relationships.
Re-experiencing is the most typical symptom of PTSD. This is when a person involuntarily and vividly re-lives the traumatic event in the form of:
Some people have constant negative thoughts about their experience, repeatedly asking themselves questions that prevent them from coming to terms with the event.
For example, they may wonder why the event happened to them and if they could have done anything to stop it, which can lead to feelings of guilt or shame.
Trying to avoid being reminded of the traumatic event is another key symptom of PTSD. This usually means avoiding certain people or places that remind you of the trauma, or avoiding talking to anyone about your experience.
Many people with PTSD try to push memories of the event out of their mind, often distracting themselves with work or hobbies.
Some people attempt to deal with their feelings by trying not to feel anything at all. This is known as emotional numbing. This can lead to the person becoming isolated and withdrawn, and they may also give up pursuing activities they used to enjoy.
Someone with PTSD may be very anxious and find it difficult to relax. They may be constantly aware of threats and easily startled. This state of mind is known as hyperarousal.
Hyperarousal often leads to:
PTSD can affect children as well as adults. Children with PTSD can have similar symptoms to adults, such as having trouble sleeping and upsetting nightmares.
Like adults, children with PTSD may also lose interest in activities they used to enjoy and may have physical symptoms such as headaches and stomach aches.
However, there are some symptoms that are more specific to children with PTSD, such as:
Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) can develop after someone experiences a very disturbing, stressful, frightening or distressing event, or after a prolonged traumatic experience.vPTSD can develop immediately after the event or it can occur weeks, months or even years later.
The types of events that can lead to PTSD include:
PTSD isn't usually related to situations that are simply upsetting, such as divorce, job loss or failing exams.
PTSD develops in about 1 in 3 people who experience severe trauma. It isn't fully understood why some people develop the condition while others don't. However, certain factors appear to make some people more likely to develop PTSD:
Although it's not clear exactly why people develop PTSD, a number of possible reasons have been suggested. These are:
These are described below.
One suggestion is that the symptoms of PTSD are the result of an instinctive mechanism intended to help you survive further traumatic experiences.
For example, the flashbacks many people with PTSD experience may force you to think about the event in detail so you're better prepared if it happens again. The feeling of being "on edge" (hyperarousal) may develop to help you react quickly in another crisis.
However, while these responses may be intended to help you survive, they're actually very unhelpful in reality because you can't process and move on from the traumatic experience.
Studies have shown that people with PTSD have abnormal levels of stress hormones.
Normally, when in danger, the body produces stress hormones such as adrenaline to trigger a reaction in the body. This reaction, often known as the "fight or flight" reaction, helps to deaden the senses and dull pain.
People with PTSD have been found to continue to produce high amounts of fight or flight hormones even when there's no danger. It's thought this may be responsible for the numbed emotions and hyperarousal experienced by some people with PTSD.
Changes in the brain
In people with PTSD, parts of the brain involved in emotional processing appear different in brain scans.
One part of the brain responsible for memory and emotions is known as the hippocampus. In people with PTSD, the hippocampus appears smaller in size. It's thought that changes in this part of the brain may be related to fear and anxiety, memory problems and flashbacks.
The malfunctioning hippocampus may prevent flashbacks and nightmares from being properly processed, so the anxiety they generate doesn't reduce over time.
Treatment of PTSD results in proper processing of the memories so, over time, the flashbacks and nightmares gradually disappear.
Hypnosis, Hypnotherapy, Psychotherapy and Counselling can be used in combination to successfully treat Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD).
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Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) is one of six major anxiety disorders that have been identified, each with their own distinct symptom profile. You can read more about the other anxiety disorders here:
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