Many of us may know someone who suffers from posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) or you’ve seen it depicted in movies. But you may not know what it is. PTSD is a psychiatric response that can occur in people who experienced or witnessed a traumatic event or circumstances. Their interpretation of these events may impact their mental, physical, social, or spiritual well-being.
The person typically views the life event as emotionally or physically harmful, or potentially life-threatening. Some examples of life events that can lead to PTSD include:
- Combat or war
- Natural disasters
- Serious accidents
- Terrorist attacks
- Rape or sexual assault
- Historical trauma
- Violence between intimate partners
A Psychiatric Condition That’s Gone By Many Names
Over the years, PTSD has been known by different names. After World War I, some soldiers were said to have experienced shell shock. The condition became known as combat fatigue following World War II. It was also known as Post Vietnam Syndrome, and Gulf War Syndrome.
Despite these names, the condition is not limited to combat veterans, and it can impact 3.5 percent of US adults every year.
The Symptoms Of PTSD
People suffering from PTSD have intense thoughts related to their experience long after it ended that can take the shape of flashbacks and nightmares. They may be flooded with sadness or anger, and feel detached from those around them. Situations that remind them of the initial event can cause strong negative reactions.
The symptoms can be broken into four categories:
- Intrusion – Recurring intrusive thoughts such as involuntary memories, distressing dreams, and flashbacks can be pervasive.
- Avoidance – There’s a tendency to avoid people, places, or activities that remind the person of the traumatic event.
- Changes in mood – The recollection of the event or negative thoughts around it and distorted beliefs can lead to sudden changes in mood.
- Reactivity – The person may be prone to irritability or sudden outbursts that can include reckless behavior.