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Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder or PTSD

Post-traumatic stress disorder is better known as PTSD among mental health professionals. PTSD occurs when someone has experienced a traumatic event such as a brutal attack that caused bodily harm or an accident.

It also affects people who have witnessed or lived through a dangerous event such as the September 11, attacks in New York.

People who suffer from PTSD may feel stressed or frightened even when they’re no longer in danger. PTSD affects people of all ages including children who witness traumatic events without having been a victim themselves.

Post-traumatic stress disorder is grouped into three categories:

Re-experiencing symptoms

Avoidance symptoms

Hyper arousal symptoms

People who suffer from re-experiencing the event relive the trauma over and over as if it were happening again in real-time. The heart begins to beat fast and they experience the same feelings they had when the traumatic event occurred. They can also have bad dreams and frightening thoughts that cause them to relive the event.

Re-experiencing symptoms may cause problems in the person’s daily life by disrupting their thoughts and feelings while they are working or performing everyday tasks.

In order to avoid these symptoms a PTSD sufferer will begin to say away from the person that caused the event and in some cases will change their daily routine. For example, after a bicycling accident, the person may stay away from bicycles in an effort to avoid the symptoms.

Hyperarousal symptoms are more consistent than the first two categories as they can make the person feel stressed and angry. These symptoms usually make it difficult to perform daily tasks such as sleeping, eating or focusing on work.

It’s normal to experience these symptoms after a traumatic event, but sometimes people have very serious symptoms that go away only after a few weeks. If you think you’re suffering from PTSD it is best to see a mental health professional after a few weeks of the first occurrence.

Only a psychiatrist or psychologist can diagnose someone as suffering from PTSD. If you make an appointment with your family doctor he or she will make a referral for you to see a mental health professional.

To be diagnosed with PTSD, a person must have each of the following symptoms for at least four weeks.

At least one re-experiencing symptom

At least three avoidance symptoms

At least two hyperarousal symptoms

Not everyone who suffers through a traumatic event will develop PTSD. In fact, most people will not get the disorder as many factors play a part in whether or not the person will develop PTSD.

The primary treatment for the disorder is psychotherapy. If after a few sessions the person does not show improvement the doctor will prescribe one of the medications listed below.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration have approved the following medications for treating PTSD:

Zoloft (sertraline)

Paxil (paroxetine)

Both of these medications are classified as antidepressants, which are also used to treat depression in people without post-traumatic stress disorder. The medications will help control the symptoms while the person is undergoing psychotherapy.