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Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is a severe anxiety disorder that can develop after exposure to any event that results in psychological trauma. This traumatic event may involve the threat of death to oneself or to someone else, or to one's own or someone else's physical, sexual, or psychological integrity. The traumatic event can involve a single experience or an enduring or repeated event or events that completely overwhelm the individual's ability to cope. Stress is caused by the sufferer’s inability to integrate the ideas and emotions caused by the traumatic experience. The sense of being overwhelmed can be delayed by weeks, years, even decades. As a result of psychological trauma, PTSD is less frequent but more enduring, damaging and incapacitating than acute stress.
Trauma can be caused by a wide variety of events, but there are a few common aspects. Primarily threats to one’s physical or psychological existence are precipitating factors. There is frequently a violation of the person's ideas about the world and of their human rights, putting the person in a state of extreme confusion and insecurity. This is also seen when trusted people or institutions violate, betray or disillusion the person in some unforeseen way.
Psychological trauma may accompany physical trauma or exist independently of it. Trauma can be the result of experiencing, witnessing or being threatened with sexual abuse, bullying or domestic violence. Post-traumatic stress disorder tends to be more frequent when these traumatic events are experienced in childhood. War or other mass violence and natural disasters like earthquakes or floods sometimes lead to psychological trauma. Long-term exposure to conditions of extreme poverty or to verbal abuse can be traumatic.
Different people react differently to similar events. One person may experience an event as being very traumatic while another person experiencing the same event does not experience it as traumatic at all. Not all people who experience a potentially traumatic event will actually become psychologically traumatized.
Post-traumatic stress disorder is characterized by the re-experiencing of an extremely traumatic event accompanied by symptoms of increased arousal and by avoidance of stimuli associated with the trauma. A serious accident, a natural disaster, or criminal assault can result in PTSD. When the aftermath of a traumatic experience interferes with normal functioning, the person may be suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder. The recent recognition and definition of post-traumatic stress disorder as a syndrome has elevate the diagnosis and treatment of people who suffer from PTSD.
Post-traumatic stress disorder can occur at any age, and traumatic stress can be accumulated over a lifetime. Responses to trauma include feelings of intense fear, helplessness or horror.
THERE ARE THREE TYPES OF GENERALLY RECOGNIZED STRESSORS:
- Threatened death or serious injury to one's person. Being the victim of a rape or violent crime.
- Learning about the death, near death or serious injury of a family member or close friend.
- Witnessing the death, near death or serious injury of another person.
SYMPTOMS OF POST-TRAUMATIC STRESS DISORDER ARE:
• Reexperiencing the event, which can take the form of intrusive thoughts and recollections or recurrent dreams of the event
• Avoidance behavior in which the sufferer avoids activities, situations, people, or conversations they associate with the traumatic event
• Detachment or general numbness and loss of interest in one’s surroundings
• Hypersensitivity, including inability to sleep, anxious feelings, overactive startle response, hypervigilance, poor concentration, irritability and outbursts of anger
Symptoms usually begin within three months of a trauma, but sometimes years pass before they arise. These late symptoms are often triggered by the anniversary of the trauma or with the experience of another traumatic event.