Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder
What is PTSD?
Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) can occur after you have been through a traumatic event. A traumatic event is something horrible and scary that you see or that happens to you. During this type of event, you think that your life or others' lives are in danger. You may feel afraid or feel that you have no control over what is happening.
Anyone who has gone through a life-threatening event can develop PTSD. These events can include:
After the event, you may feel scared, confused, and angry. If these feelings don't go away or they get worse, you may have PTSD. These symptoms may disrupt your life, making it hard to continue with your daily activities.
What are the symptoms?
After going through a traumatic event, you may:
PTSD symptoms can change your behavior and how you live your life. You may pull away from other people, work all the time, or use drugs or alcohol. You may find it hard to be in relationships, and you may have problems with your spouse and family. You may become depressed. Some people with PTSD also have panic attacks, which are sudden feelings of fear or worry that something bad is about to happen.
Children can have PTSD too. They may have the symptoms above and symptoms that depend on how old they are. As children get older their symptoms are more like those of adults.
What can you do if you think you have PTSD?
If you think you have PTSD:
If you have thoughts about hurting yourself or someone else, call
How does PTSD develop?
All people with PTSD have personally experienced—or have experienced through others—a traumatic event that caused them to fear for their lives, see horrible things, and feel helpless. Strong emotions caused by the event create changes in the brain that may result in PTSD.3
Many people who go through a traumatic event don't get PTSD. It isn't clear why some people develop PTSD and others don't. How likely you are to get PTSD depends on many things. These include:
PTSD symptoms usually start soon after the traumatic event, but they may not happen until months or years later. They also may come and go over many years. About half of people who develop PTSD get better at some time. But other people who develop PTSD always will have some symptoms.4
If you have symptoms of PTSD, counseling can help you cope. Your symptoms don't have to interfere with your everyday activities, work, and relationships. It is never too late to get professional help or other forms of support that can help you manage the symptoms of PTSD.
Reminders and anniversaries of the event can make symptoms worse.
How is PTSD treated?
You may need to try different types of treatment before finding the one that helps you. Your doctor will help you with this. These treatments may include other types of medicines and other forms of counseling, such as group counseling. If you have other problems along with PTSD, such as overuse of alcohol or drugs, you may need treatment for those also.
Treatment can help you feel more in control of your emotions, have fewer symptoms, and enjoy life again.
eMedicineHealth Medical Reference from Healthwise
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