Conditions InDepth: Post-traumatic Stress Disorder

Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is an anxiety disorder that can develop after exposure to a terrifying event or ordeal in which grave physical harm occurred or was threatened. Traumatic events that can trigger PTSD include violent personal assaults such as rape or mugging, natural or human-caused disasters, accidents, or military combat. PTSD can be extremely disabling.

Many people with PTSD repeatedly re-experience the ordeal in the form of flashback episodes, memories, nightmares, or frightening thoughts, especially when they are exposed to events or objects reminiscent of the trauma. Anniversaries of the event can also trigger symptoms. People with PTSD also experience emotional numbness and sleep disturbances, depression, anxiety, and irritability or outbursts of anger. Feelings of intense guilt are also common. Most people with PTSD try to avoid any reminders or thoughts of the ordeal. PTSD is diagnosed when symptoms last more than one month.

Co-occurring depression , alcohol or other substance abuse , or another anxiety disorder are not uncommon. The likelihood of treatment success is increased when these other conditions are appropriately identified and treated as well.

What are the risk factors for post-traumatic stress disorder?
What are the symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder?
How is post-traumatic stress disorder diagnosed?
What are the treatments for post-traumatic stress disorder?
How can I reduce my risk of post-traumatic stress disorder?
What questions should I ask my healthcare provider?
What is it like to live with post-traumatic stress disorder?
Where can I get more information about post-traumatic stress disorder?

References:

National Institute of Mental Health website. Available at: http://www.nimh.nih.gov/ .



Last reviewed February 2007 by Edward R. Rosick, DO, MPH, MS

Please be aware that this information is provided to supplement the care provided by your physician. It is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. CALL YOUR HEALTHCARE PROVIDER IMMEDIATELY IF YOU THINK YOU MAY HAVE A MEDICAL EMERGENCY. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.


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