Post-traumatic Stress Disorder
Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is an anxiety
The exact cause of PTSD is unknown. PTSD is triggered by exposure to a traumatic event. Situations in which a person feels intense fear, helplessness, or horror are considered traumatic. PTSD has been reported in people who experienced:
Synapses in the Brain
Not everyone who experiences a traumatic event will develop PTSD. Symptoms of PTSD are more likely to occur if the person has:
- Previous traumatic experiences
- A history of being physically abused
- Poor coping skills
- Lack of social support
People with PTSD experience symptoms of anxiety. These symptoms fall into three categories:
Re-experiencing of the event
- Anxious reactions to reminders of the event
- Avoiding close emotional contact with family and friends
- Avoiding people or places that are reminders of the event
- Loss of memory about the event
- Feelings of detachment, numbness
- Difficulty falling or staying asleep
- Anger and irritability
- Difficulty concentrating
- Being easily startled
Physical symptoms may also occur such as:
- Stomach and digestive problems
- Chest pain
People with PTSD may also abuse alcohol or drugs
The doctor will ask you about your symptoms and medical history. This could be done by a structured interview and/or a questionnaire. You will also likely be given a psychological assessment. PTSD will be diagnosed if you have the specified symptoms, they last for more than one month, and they result in both emotional distress and disturbed functioning (problems at school, work, and/or in family and peer relationships).
PTSD is categorized according to when symptoms occur and how long they last. There are three types of PTSD:
- Acute—symptoms last between 1-3 months after the event
- Chronic—symptoms last more than three months after the event
- Delayed onset—symptoms don't appear until at least six months after the event
There is no definitive treatment nor is there a cure for PTSD. A variety of therapies can help relieve symptoms. You will not begin treatment for PTSD until after you are completely removed from the traumatic event. You will first receive treatment for severe depression , suicidal tendencies, drug or alcohol abuse.
In exposure therapy, the therapist brings back the imagery of the event in a safe place. You are gradually guided through a visualization. Re-experiencing the trauma in a controlled environment can help you let go of fear and gain control over the anxiety. For example, a study involving female military personnel found that exposure therapy was effective in relieving PTSD symptoms.
Meeting in a
Medication may help with anxiety, depression, and
The events that trigger PTSD cannot be predicted or prevented. However, there are some factors that might prevent PTSD from developing after the event.
- Cognitive behavioral therapy after an acute stressful episodes may help prevent PTSD
- Social support
Anxiety Disorders Association of America
Gift From Within
National Center for PTSD
Canadian Mental Health Center
Canadian Psychological Association
American Psychiatric Association website. Available at: http://www.psych.org . Accessed July 15, 2009.
Antidepressant use in children, adolescents, and adults. US Food and Drug Administration website. Available at: http://www.fda.gov/Drugs/DrugSafety/InformationbyDrugClass/UCM096273 . Published May 22, 2009. Accessed July 15, 2009.
Latest research: restoring lost synapses may speed up treatment response in treating depression and PTSD. NARSAD website. Available at: http://www.narsad.org/?q=node/846. Published April 9, 2009. Accessed May 20, 2010.
National Center for PTSD website. Available at: http://www.ncptsd.va.gov/ncmain/index.jsp . Accessed July 15, 2009.
National Institute of Mental Health website. Available at: http://www.nimh.nih.gov/index.shtml . Accessed July 15, 2009.
Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: http://www.ebscohost.com/dynamed . Updated November 10, 2009. Accessed November 12, 2009.
3/16/2007 DynaMed's Systematic Literature Surveillance DynaMed's Systematic Literature Surveillance : Schnurr PP, Friedman MJ, Engel CC, et al. Cognitive behavioral therapy for posttraumatic stress disorder in women: a randomized controlled trial. JAMA. 2007;297:820-830.
Last reviewed November 2009 by
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