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Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is a debilitating condition that often follows a terrifying physical or emotional event - causing the person who survived the event to have persistent, frightening thoughts and memories, or flashbacks, of the ordeal. Persons with PTSD often feel chronically, emotionally numb.
PTSD was first brought to public attention by war veterans and was once referred to as "shell shock" or "battle fatigue." The likelihood of developing PTSD depends on the severity and duration of the event, as well as the person's nearness to it.
The event(s) that triggers PTSD may be:
Persons with PTSD experience extreme emotional, mental, and physical distress when exposed to situations that remind them of the traumatic event. Some may repeatedly relive the trauma in the form of nightmares and disturbing recollections during the day, and may also experience the following:
The following are the most common symptoms of PTSD. However, each individual may experience symptoms differently. Symptoms may include:
The symptoms of PTSD may resemble other psychiatric conditions. Always consult your physician for a diagnosis.
Not every person who experiences a trauma develops PTSD, or experiences symptoms at all. PTSD is diagnosed only if symptoms last more than one month. In those who do have PTSD, symptoms usually begin within three months of the trauma, but can also start months or years later.
PTSD can occur at any age, including childhood, and may be accompanied by the following:
The length of the illness varies. Some people recover within six months, others have symptoms that last much longer.
Specific treatment for PTSD will be determined by your physician based on:
As persons with PTSD are more susceptible to other anxiety disorders, depression, and substance abuse, treatment is critical and may include: