Post-traumatic stress syndrome is a mental illness that some people develop after they experience a traumatic event. Also known as post-traumatic stress disorder or PTSD, the condition is marked by vivid flashbacks of the frightening event, as well as a number of other symptoms.
PTSD can be caused by any frightening or traumatic event, but some of the most common triggers of PTSD include experiencing any of the following:
- Car accidents or plane crashes
- Natural disasters
- Sexual or physical abuse
- Violence, or witnessing violence
Although PTSD is treatable with medication and therapy, many people continue to suffer from it because they don’t want to confront the trauma; they may also see PTSD as a sign of weakness. However, untreated PTSD can lead to a host of problems. For one, PTSD symptoms can get worse over time. PTSD can also lead to other mood disorders, such as anxiety and depression, and has also been linked with heart problems. People with PTSD may become withdrawn and isolate themselves from friends and family. Some may even attempt suicide.
If you have any of the symptoms in the PTSD symptoms checklist, visit a doctor or therapist as soon as possible. If you’re nervous, talk to a close friend or family member and ask them to go with you. You don’t have to live with PTSD.
Although most people think about flashbacks when they think of PTSD, the disorder is actually identified by three specific groups of PTSD symptoms:
- Re-experiencing the event
- Increased arousal.
Symptoms of re-experiencing the event include:
- Flashbacks or feelings of reliving the event
- Intense distress when reminded of the event
- Physical responses to memories of the event, such as sweating or a pounding heart
- Unwanted and upsetting memories of the event.
Symptoms of avoidance include:
- Avoiding thoughts, places and people that remind you of the trauma
- Feeling detached and withdrawn from others
- Feeling emotionally numb
- Loss of interest in once-enjoyed activities
- Loss of memories associated with the event
- Sense of a limited future.
Symptoms of increased arousal include:
- Difficulty concentrating
- Feeling jumpy
- Hyper-vigilance, or a state of being constantly on alert for danger
- Irritability and anger.
According to PTSD statistics from the National Institute of Mental Health (2009), roughly 7.7 million American adults (or 3.5 percent) have PTSD in any given year. The average age for the onset of PTSD is 23 years, but it can develop at any age; even children can experience PTSD. PTSD was particularly prevalent after the Vietnam War, with 19 percent of veterans reporting symptoms.
Hutchins, K. (2010). Symptoms of PTSD. Retrieved May 25, 2010, from www.returningwarriors.com/ptsdChecklist.html.
National Institute of Mental Health. (2010). The numbers count: Mental disorders in America. Retrieved May 25, 2010, from www.nimh.nih.gov/health/publications/the-numbers-count-mental-disorders-in-america/index.shtml#PTSD.
National Institute of Mental Health. (2009). Post-traumatic stress disorder. Retrieved May 25, 2010, from www.nimh.nih.gov/health/publications/post-traumatic-stress-disorder-easy-to-read/index.shtml.
Smith, M., Segal, R., Segal, J. (2008). Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Retrieved May 25, 2010, from helpguide.org/mental/post_traumatic_stress_disorder_symptoms_treatment.htm#treatments.