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Posttraumatic Stress Disorder

What is Posttraumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)? It is an anxiety disorder which comes after a traumatic or stressful event in an individuals life. PTSD has been around ever since the beginning of time when humans experienced traumatic events. But it hasn’t really been known until 1980.

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What is posttraumatic stress disorder? PTSD is an emotional illness. It is classified as an anxiety disorder which develops as a result of a frightening, life-threatening, or highly unsafe experience. The sufferers re-experience the traumatic event or events in some way. They tend to avoid places, people, or other things that remind them of the event. They can be oversensitive to normal life experiences. PTSD has likely been around since humans have endured trauma, but it has only been recognized since 1980.

Before 1980 it was referred to by different names. During the American Civil War, combat veterans were referred to as suffering from “soldier’s heart”. In World War 1 the veterans were diagnosed as having “combat fatigue”. When World War 2 came, the combat veterans were said to have “gross stress reaction”. For the Vietnam veterans, the soldiers with the symptoms were said to be suffering from “post-Vietnam syndrome”. Sometimes PTSD was called “battle fatigue” and “shell shock”.

According to statistics regarding PTSD, people in the U.S.A. who will likely develop the illness over their lifetime is 7% to 8%. Combat veterans and rape victims have a lifetime occurrence of the illness ranging from 10% to as high as 30%. There are approximately 5 million people who suffer from PTSD at any one time in the U.S.A. Women have been found to develop the illness twice as much as men.

Any kind of trauma, defined as life-threatening, an event which severely compromises physical or emotional well-being, or an event which causes intense fear, can cause PTSD. Other causes of PTSD are experiencing or witnessing a severe accident or physical injury, being a victim of kidnapping or torture, exposure to war combat or natural disaster, being a rape victim, being mugged, being robbed, being a victim of an assault, and enduring some form of abuse.

There are three groups of symptom criteria required to give the diagnosis of PTSD. Those groups are: 1. Recurrent re-experiencing of the trauma. 2. Avoidance to the point of having a phobia or a numbing of emotional responsiveness. 3. Chronic physical signs of hyper-arousal which includes sleep problems, trouble concentrating, irritability, anger, poor concentration, blackouts, excessive watchfulness to threat, difficulty in remembering things. There needs to be at least one re-experiencing symptom, three avoidance/numbing symptoms, and two hyper-arousal symptoms present for at least one month and must cause significant distress in order for PTSD to be diagnosed in the individual.

Treatments for this illness usually include psychological and medical interventions. A few ways to cope with PTSD could include learning more about the disorder, talking to friends, family, and professionals, and talking with PTSD survivors for support. Other helpful tips include using relaxation techniques, actively participating in treatment, increasing positive lifestyle practices, exercise, employment, and minimizing negative lifestyle practices.

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