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6 things to know about posttraumatic stress disorder

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Most often associated with military personnel, posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is more common than we think. This destructive and misunderstood disorder affects 6 to 10% of the population. Here’s some relevant information on the subject.

1. What is it exactly?

Posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD), also known as posttraumatic stress syndrome (PTSS) is a mental health disorder caused by a traumatic event. A “traumatic” event could be a death, near-death experience, serious injury or threat of serious bodily harm. The event triggers feelings of intense fear, helplessness or terror. PTSD is classified as an anxiety disorder.

2. What type of event can trigger PTSD?

This disorder may be caused by extremely serious, troubling and extraordinary events like car accidents, rape, violent attacks, theft, being taken hostage, war and natural disasters. For some, just witnessing a traumatic event (murder, death in family, etc.) can bring on PTSD.

3. What are the symptoms of PTSD?

A person suffering from PTSD displays three types of symptoms:

  • Constantly relives the event, obsessively thinks or dreams about it (reexperience);
  • Avoids everything and anything that serves as a reminder of the event (avoidance and numbing);
  • Always on alert (hypervigilant) even with no immediate danger.

4. When do symptoms appear?

PTSD symptoms usually appear within the first 3 months of the traumatic event. However, symptoms can sometimes take months or even years to manifest. The delayed onset may follow a trigger event (additional stress or anniversary that may awaken past trauma).

5. How long do symptoms last?

The intensity and duration of PTSD vary. Symptoms can stay for months or years; the average is one to two years. However, for some, the situation can become chronic.

6. Are there treatments?

Yes, there are proven treatments for PTSD. The majority of cases are treated through therapy or medications, or a combination of both. Although it can’t erase the trauma, the treatment allows the person to regain control of their life and their daily activities. The earlier one seeks treatment, the better the chances of success.

Other facts:

  • Women are 2x more at risk of developing PTSD than men.
  • Existing mental health disorders may increase chances of developing PTSD.
  • PTSD can take the form of depression, anxiety disorders, health problems (fibromyalgia, chronic pain, etc.), sexual problems, alcohol and drug abuse.

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