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Understanding Posttraumatic Stress Disorder

Feb 26, 2008
Posttraumatic stress disorder is a mental illness that has gained a lot of press since the Vietnam War. Despite the press, however, many people do not realize what this condition is and how many lives it can and does impact.

Posttraumatic stress disorder is one of several anxiety disorders. This particular condition is widely associated with military personnel who have seen live-action combat. It is, however, an equal opportunity offender and can sideline the lives of anyone who has undergone extreme trauma.

Who Gets Posttraumatic Stress?

This particular condition can strike men, women and children equally. It is characteristically found in people who have experienced and lived through a very serious event, such as combat, sexual abuse, serious accidents, natural disasters and even terrorist attacks.

What Are The Symptoms?

During an extreme event, such as a tornado or hot-fire battle, it is normal for people to feel very frightened, stressed, angry and even confused. This is very normal and quite expected. If the feelings persist beyond the traumatic event, posttraumatic stress disorder might have developed. Generally, if the feelings last for more than four weeks or cause extreme interference with life, this condition could be present. Other symptoms that characterize this condition include:

* Reliving the trauma. Many sufferers of posttraumatic stress disorder relive the events that caused them the trauma over and over again. Called a flashback, this can be a very real reliving to the person who has this condition. A soldier, for example, might think he is back in combat. A rape victim might feel as if the attack is happening again, in real time.

* Avoidance of triggers. People with this condition try to avoid all potential triggers at any cost. This can include watching movies related to the subject, going to places that remind them of the location of the trauma and so on.

* Numbness. It is not at all uncommon for people with posttraumatic stress disorder to have a difficult time feeling normal, healthy emotions.

* High tension. Sometimes sufferers live in a state of high arousal, always waiting for the next incident.

* Refusal to be away from loved ones. Children, in particular, express this symptom. After a severe event, they might cling to parents and refuse to be out of their sight. This can persist for a long time after the actual incident.

Posttraumatic stress disorder is a very serious condition that can sidetrack a life indefinitely. Fortunately, many people who develop the condition can and do overcome it over time. Typically, some form of therapy is needed to help a person work through the trauma and pick up the pieces of life.
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