Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) is a reactive anxiety disorder caused by very stressful, frightening or distressing events. In other words, it develops as a response to experiencing events that are both frightening and overwhelming.
The types of events that can cause PTSD include:
- Military combat
- Serious road accidents
- Terrorist attacks
- Natural disasters, such as severe floods, earthquakes or tsunamis
- Witnessing violent deaths
- Being held hostage
- Violent personal assaults, such as sexual assaults, mugging or robbery
PTSD can develop immediately after someone experiences a disturbing event or it can occur weeks, months or even years later. The likelihood of someone developing the disorder in a particular set of circumstances depends upon many factors. However, the basic elements are that the person experienced something that seriously threatened their life or their physical well-being in some way. Their reaction, understandably, is expected to have involved extreme feelings of fear and helplessness. The event could have been a one-off incident or something that happened many times. People can also suffer from PTSD after witnessing dreadful things happening to other people. PTSD can be mild, moderate or severe.
Symptoms of PTSD
- Re-experiencing the event- perhaps in a form of intrusive images, recurrent dreams or flashbacks of event
- Attempts to avoid reminders of the event- such as trying not to think about what happened or avoiding people and places that act as reminders.
- Persistent symptoms of heightened arousal – such as difficulties with concentration, problems getting to sleep and increased anxiety.
Treatment for PTSD
The main treatments for people with PTSD are counselling, medication, or both. Although there are number of treatment options for PTSD, and patient response to treatment varies, some treatments have been shown to have more benefit in general.
Cognitive-behavioural therapy (CBT).
The therapist can help the person suffering from PTSD understand and change how thoughts and beliefs about the trauma, and about the world, cause stress and maintain current symptoms.
Many people with PTSD also suffer from depression. Taking antidepressants may help relieve some of the symptoms and help people get the best of the psychological treatments. You may also be offered antidepressants if you are not ready to talk about your experience with a therapist. Since antidepressant can be difficult to come off, they should be used with caution and with full knowledge of their possible side effects.
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