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PTSD develops after a terrifying experience that involved physical harm or the threat of harm. The person who develops PTSD may have been the one who was harmed, the harm may have happened to a loved one, or the person may have witnessed a harmful event that happened to someone else. People who have PTSD often feel stress ed or frightened even when they are no longer in danger.
PTSD was first identified in war veterans, but it can result from a variety of traumatic incidents, such as mugging, rape, torture, being kidnapped or held captive, child abuse, domestic violence, car accidents, train wrecks, plane crashes, bombings, or natural disasters such as floods or earthquakes.
PTSD can cause many symptoms. It’s natural to have some o f these symptoms after a dangerous event. Sometimes people have very serious symptoms that go away after a few weeks. This is called acute stress disorder, or ASD. When the symptoms last more than a few weeks and become an ongoing problem, they might be PTSD. Some peop le with PTSD don’t show any symptoms for weeks or months.
These symptoms can be grouped into three categories:
1. Re-experiencing symptoms - Re-experiencing symptoms may cause problems in a person’s everyday routine. They can start from the person’s ow n thoughts and feelings. Words, objects, sight, sounds, smells, or situations that are reminders o f the event can also trigger re- experiencing.
2. Avoidance symptoms - Things that remind a person of the traumatic event can t rigger avoidance symptoms. These symptoms may cause a person to change his or her personal routine. For example, after a bad car accident, a person who usual ly drives may avoid driving or riding in a car.
3 . Hyperarousal symptoms - Hyperarousal symptoms are usually constant, instead of being triggered by things that remind one of the traumatic events. They can make the person feel stressed and angry. These symptoms may make it hard to do daily tasks, such as sleeping, eating, or concentrating.
It is important to remember that not everyone who lives through a dangerous event gets PTSD. In fact, most will not get the disorder. Stress level s before and after the event, how long a person suffered exposure to harmful events, and support systems a re some of many factors.
The main treatments for people with PTSD are psychother apy (“talk” therapy) and medications such as anti-depressants, or both. Everyone is different, so a treatment that works for one person may not work for another. Other ongoing problems can include panic disorder, depression, substance abuse, and feeling suicidal.
Therapy teaches people helpful ways to react to frighteni ng events that trigger their PTSD symptoms. Based on this general goal, different types of therapy may:
Therapy teaches people the importance of: