Post-traumatic stress disorder, or PTSD, is a condition that sometimes develops after a person has been through a horrific or terrifying event where they felt that their life or the life of those around them was in danger. Common events that may lead to PTSD include military combat, sexual assault, terrorist attacks, experiencing violence, or natural disasters. It is normal to feel afraid and confused during and after the event, but if these feelings persist or get worse, it may be a sign of PTSD.
Post-traumatic stress disorder can make it difficult to continue daily activities following a traumatic event.
Individual symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder often vary depending on the event experienced, but common symptoms include feeling distressed by reminders of the event, nightmares or flashbacks about the event, avoiding places that remind sufferers of the event, panic attacks, feeling constantly in danger, anxiety, depression, loss of interest in activities, trouble concentrating, and difficulty sleeping. Symptoms often develop shortly following the event, but in some cases take months or even years to emerge. These symptoms often interfere with daily life.
Post-traumatic stress disorder is caused by experiencing a traumatic event. It is not understood why some people develop PTSD after a trauma and others do not, but doctors believe it may be due to factors such as how intense the event was, if a loved one was involved, the person’s role in the event, if they were in control or not, and the support received after the event. Some people may be more likely to develop PTSD due to biological factors that are not well understood.
A mental health professional can diagnose PTSD through a detailed evaluation interview reviewing symptom intensity and duration.
Post-traumatic stress disorder is typically treated by a combination of therapy and medication. Therapy can help people restore a sense of control and develop alternative coping strategies, while medication works to rebalance the brain and treat neurological aspects of PTSD.
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