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PTSD - Post Traumatic Stress Disorder

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What is PTSD?

Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PSTD) is a medical condition believed to be caused by the reaction of the brain psychologically exposed to an extreme traumatic situation or event involving an actual or threatened death or serious injury, or witnessing such an event, or hearing about such an event in regard to a family member.

Traumatic events that may cause PTSD symptoms to develop include violent assault, sexual assault, kidnapping, experiencing a disaster, serious car accidents, being a hostage, prisoner of war or concentration camp victim or getting a diagnosis of a life-threatening illness. PTSD can occur at any age, from childhood to old age and traumatic stress can be cumulative over a lifetime. Responses to trauma include feelings of intense fear, helplessness, and/or horror.

Warning Signs of Trauma Related Stress

Individuals who have experienced a traumatic event oftentimes suffer psychological stress related to the incident. In most instances, these are normal reactions to abnormal situations. Individuals who feel they are unable to regain control of their lives, or who experience the following symptoms for more than a month, should consider seeking outside professional mental health assistance.

Symptoms to watch out for:

Myths and Facts about PTSD

by Harold Cohen, Ph.D.

April 8, 2006

Myth: PTSD is only seen in people with “weak characters” who are unable to cope with difficult situations in the same way that most of us do.

Fact: PTSD is a human response to markedly abnormal situations, and it involves specific chemical changes in the brain that occur in response to a person experiencing a traumatic event. Many of the symptoms of PTSD seem to be a direct result of such brain changes.

Myth: All of us have been through frightening experiences and have at least one symptom of PTSD as a result of that experience.

Fact: Although memories of frightening experiences may be similar to symptoms of PTSD (e.g., vivid memories), most persons do not have the severity of symptoms or impairment associated with PTSD. The specific brain-based responses seen in PTSD differ from those seen in normal anxiety. Similarly, the experiences of normal anxiety and of PTSD are markedly different.

Myth: Stress reactions to trauma exist, but these should not be considered as a serious medical problem.

Fact: PTSD is a medical disorder that can sometimes cause serious disability. Persons with PTSD often also have co-occurring mood, anxiety, and substance-related disorders. In addition, these people may have significant difficulty at their job, in their personal relationships, or other social interactions.

Resource Links

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