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Anxiety: What Is Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder?

Jul 17, 2008
Have you lived through a scary or dangerous event? Do you have some of the following problems?

* Feeling like the event is happening again
* Trouble sleeping or nightmares
* Not feeling close to people
* Becoming easily angered
* Feeling guilty because others died when you lived

If so, you might have post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Events that might cause PTSD include rape, physical abuse, an airplane or car crash, war or others. For most people, PTSD starts about three months after the event. However, sometimes signs of PTSD show up years later. PTSD can happen to anyone, even children.

And, know this - You are not alone. 5.2 million Americans have PTSD.

If you have PTSD, you often have nightmares or scary thoughts about the experience you went through. You try to stay away from anything that reminds you of your experience. You may feel angry and unable to trust or care about other people. You may always be on the lookout for danger. You can feel very upset when something happens suddenly or without warning.

The symptoms of PTSD fall into three broad types: re-living, avoidance and increased arousal.

1. Symptoms of re-living include flashbacks, nightmares, and extreme emotional and physical reactions to reminders of the event. Emotional reactions can include feeling guilty, extreme fear of harm, and numbing of emotions. Physical reactions can include uncontrollable shaking, chills or heart palpitations, and tension headaches.

2. Symptoms of avoidance include staying away from activities, places, thoughts, or feelings related to the trauma or feeling detached or estranged from others.

3. Symptoms of increased arousal include being overly alert or easily startled, difficulty sleeping, irritability or outbursts of anger, and lack of concentration.

The National Institute of Mental Health conducts and supports research on reactions to national crises and traumatic events. This research includes the reactions of people following the September 11, 2001 terrorist attack on the Twin Towers; the Oklahoma City bombing; wars and violence in the Middle East; and disasters such as earthquakes, tornados, fires, floods, and hurricanes, including the 2005 Gulf Coast storms.

There are many different responses to crisis. Most survivors have intense feelings after a traumatic event but recover from the trauma; others have more difficulty recovering 'especially those who have had previous traumatic experiences, who are faced with ongoing stress, or who lack support from friends and family' and will need additional help.

There are many things you can do to cope with traumatic events.

* Understand that your symptoms may be normal, especially right after the trauma.
* Keep to your usual routine.
* Take the time to resolve day-to-day conflicts so they do not add to your stress.
* Do not shy away from situations, people and places that remind you of the trauma.
* Find ways to relax and be kind to yourself.
* Turn to family, friends, and clergy person for support, and talk about your experiences and feelings with them.
* Participate in leisure and recreational activities.
* Recognize that you cannot control everything.
* Recognize the need for trained help, and call a local mental health center

Past traumatic experiences can have a profound impact on the amount of anxiety that we regularly feel. Children who grew up in extremely abusive environments often grow up to very anxious adults. Veterans of war many times come back with a heightened level of anxiety. And also, survivors of major disasters are prone to severe anxiety disorders.

About half of those with PTSD recover within three months without treatment. Sometimes symptoms do not go away on their own or they last for more than three months. This may happen because of the severity of the event, direct exposure to the traumatic event, seriousness of the threat to life, the number of times an event happened, a history of past trauma, and psychological problems before the event. If this is the case, you may need to consider seeking professional help if your symptoms affect your relationship with your family and friends, or affect your job.
About the Author
Sherry Harris is the author of the successful e-book "Best Practices Guide: 101 Amazingly Simple Ways to Beat Insomnia". It was created to be The Definitive Guide of insomnia treatments on the Net. You can download the FREE PDF e-book or click on the link. After you grab your free e-book, visit the rest of the website http://www.ScentToSleep.com where you will find products to wipe out insomnia.
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