Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) occurs in certain individuals who experience a traumatic event which may involve a threat of harm, danger, or death. PTSD sometimes occurs when a person witnesses an accident, natural disaster or other type of violence. Soldiers, for example, who experience combat sometimes develop PTSD.
Other instances that might trigger Post Traumatic Stress Disorder include living in a combat area, experiencing physical or domestic abuse or rape, or surviving a life-threatening injury, illness, or natural disaster. Any event that causes fright, helplessness or terror can trigger PTSD.
The resulting stress after such an event is an anxiety disorder. Symptoms of PTSD include sleep problems, nightmares, flashbacks, panic attacks, or feelings of guilt, detachment or paranoia. Flashbacks are troubling, realistic memories of the traumatic event. The results of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder can impair a person's ability to function on a daily basis.
Some victims of PTSD may experience extreme anxiety that the traumatic event is recurring. Others may be unable to talk about the traumatic event or feel unable to express feelings or emotions with those unrelated to the tragedy. Another symptom is extreme tension which can cause anger or irritability. Other symptoms include having an unexplainable fear, becoming easily startled or experiencing difficulty with concentration.
Although the actual cause of PTSD is not determined, doctors believe that chemicals released during the tragic event alter the function of the brain in some form.
Because not everyone who experiences a traumatic event develops PTSD, experts have determined that the disorder is more likely to occur in certain types of people. Those who are likely to develop PTSD might have additional mental health conditions, either personally or in their family, or experienced serious disturbances during childhood. Females, alcohol users, those who are under stress, or those do not have a strong support group are more likely to develop PTSD.
Someone who experiences PTSD symptoms for over one month should seek help from a mental health professional or medical doctor. Interviews and questionnaires administered by a professional can help diagnose Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. Counseling and drug therapy are effective forms of treatment. Relaxation therapy is also helpful to some PTSD sufferers.
Organizations that provide additional information on PTSD include the Anxiety Disorders Association of America, International Society for Traumatic Stress Studies, National Alliance for Mental Illness, National Center for Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, National Institute of Mental Health and PTSD Alliance.