Understanding Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)

Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) is an anxiety disorder that develops after a person is exposed to one or more traumatic events, such as major stress, military combat, physical and sexual assault, natural disaster, or other life-threatening events. Not everyone with PTSD has been through a dangerous event. Some people get PTSD after a friend or family member experiences danger or is harmed. The sudden, unexpected death of a loved one can also cause PTSD.

PTSD can occur at any age, including childhood. The diagnosis may be given when a group of symptoms, such as disturbing recurring flashbacks, avoidance or numbing of memories of the event, nightmares, irritability, severe anxiety, feelings of isolation, and guilt, continue for more than a month after the occurrence of a traumatic event. Someone with PTSD may also have problems sleeping, such as insomnia, and find concentrating difficult. In severe cases, a patient with PTSD may have trouble working or socializing.

It is normal to experience upsetting and confusing thoughts after a traumatic event, but in most people these will improve naturally over a few weeks. If you have disturbing thoughts and feelings about a traumatic event for more than a month, if they're severe, or if you feel you're having trouble getting your life back under control, talk to your health care professional. Getting effective treatment after PTSD symptoms develop can be critical to reduce symptoms and improve function.

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