Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) is a type of anxiety disorder triggered by a traumatic event. It often occurs after an event in which physical harm occurred or safety was threatened. It is characterized by intense fear and a sense of helplessness. It is one of only a few mental health disorders caused by an outside event.
A “fight or flight” reaction to danger is normal, but with Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder a person feels frightened or threatened even when there is no longer any danger. PTSD changes the body’s response to stress and the stress hormones remain elevated. Anything that reminds a person of the trauma can cause a sense of panic.
About 7-8% of people in the United States develop this disorder. Soldiers returning from war are often unable to adapt to life after war because of PTSD. Other people affected by PTSD include victims of violent crimes or natural disasters, victims of kidnapping or torture, witnesses to deaths of loved ones, or witnesses of severe accidents or injuries. Higher trauma levels make it more likely that a person will develop PTSD.
Children who are exposed to a trauma are more likely than adults to develop PTSD. Younger children are much more likely to develop post-traumatic stress disorder after experiencing a traumatic event.
Many people will experience a traumatic event at some point in their lives, but not all of them will develop PTSD. Certain people are at higher risk than others for developing Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder. Risk factors include having a history of psychological problems, experiencing prior traumatic events, and having little or no emotional support from family and friends.
Symptoms of PTSD include being easily startled, having difficulty concentrating, and experiencing difficulty sleeping. Trauma survivors may have flashbacks so vivid that they become removed from reality and actually relive the trauma. Interaction with other people becomes difficult, and they may eventually avoid being around other people. Conditions such as alcohol abuse, depression, panic attacks, and anxiety may develop. Symptoms need to be present for at least a month before a diagnosis of PTSD can be made.
People with PTSD are treated with a variety of methods, including counseling, medication, and family therapy. If conditions such as drug or alcohol abuse have developed, these conditions may need to be treated before treating the PTSD.
Cognitive behavior therapy appears to be one of the most effective types of counseling for PTSD. Most people undergo cognitive behavior therapy, group therapy, or a combination of the two. With the help of a therapist, painful and frightening experiences can be relived while teaching the patient to control anxious feelings. Support groups are another method of processing feelings and helping the patient connect with others who have experienced similar trauma.
Medications are almost always used together with psychotherapy because medications treat the symptoms and not the cause. Antidepressants are the most commonly prescribed medications for PTSD.
Some types of alternative therapies may also help relieve symptoms of PTSD. Exercise and relaxation techniques can help combat the feelings of tension and panic that Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder causes. Other alternative relief therapies are massage, mediation, stress balls, and music therapy.
Approximately one-third of patients with PTSD recover with treatment. However, treatment may take months or even years, and patients may experience a re-occurrence of symptoms for a prolonged period of time. The prognosis can vary from one individual to another, but recovery usually depends on the severity of the trauma and the point in time in which treatment was started.
Inspired by Office Space: 5 Stress-Killing Promotional Products
What to Do to Relieve Stress
Stress Management Tips
Exam Time Stress Management Tips
How to Deal with Job Stress
How to Relieve Stress for Customer Service Reps
Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder Resources
Stress Management: Basic Principles
Tips for Managing Stress
What is Stress?