Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)

Terrible headache
A middle-aged rape survivor suffers from nightmares and panic attacks for months following her nightmarish ordeal.  A soldier returns from combat and relives the terrors of war for years via flashbacks and vivid dreams.  A middle-school student can’t get the bloody faces of dead classmates out of his mind following a horrific school shooting and begins to hyperventilate every time he goes anywhere near the campus.

Treatment plays a very important role in overcoming PTSD. The sooner it is received, the better the chance of a good outcome. 

Each of these individuals is suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder – often referred to as PTSD for short.  This challenging psychiatric disorder can develop in anyone who has experienced or witnessed an intensely traumatic event.  In some cases, the trauma put their own life or well-being at risk. 

In others, the trauma came from witnessing the serious harm or violent death (or near-death) of someone else. PTSD is believed to impact a significant portion of the population.  It knows no barriers when it comes to age, gender, education, or social class. Very young children and elderly adults have been diagnosed with the disorder. 

Sometimes, symptoms develop quickly, starting out as acute stress disorder, if they develop within 30 days following the trauma and continue beyond that time frame.  But, for some trauma survivors, the symptoms don’t appear until several weeks, or even many months (or longer), after the incident.  Regardless of the time of onset, PTSD symptoms may persist for months, years, or even decades – especially if proper treatment is never received.

Common Triggers

While any type of trauma can trigger PTSD, some of the more common triggers include: 

  • military combat
  • sexual or physical assault
  • serious car accident
  • violent storms (e.g. hurricanes, tsunamis, or tornados)
  • witnessing a murder or fatal accident
  • near-drowning experience
  • being trapped (e.g. in a burning building or collapsed structure)
  • childhood sexual or physical abuse
  • being the victim of domestic violence

In the past year alone, many survivors of the Boston Marathon bombing, the Sandy Hook school shooting, and the Colorado movie theatre massacre are battling PTSD.  Not only are many of those survivors struggling to overcome the horrific images from those events, they are also striving to heal and rehabilitate from injuries they sustained.  Many are also grappling with survivor’s guilt – particularly those who lost a loved one who died while trying to protect them. 

Symptoms

The range and severity of PTSD symptoms can vary quite a bit from one individual to the next.  Sometimes they are fairly obvious, such as recurring nightmares or frequent flashbacks of the traumatic event.  In other cases, however, they are less evident.  Individuals with PTSD have a mix of symptoms from three different categories. 

  1. Persistent re-experiencing of the trauma (e.g. disturbing dreams, intrusive memories, flashbacks or feeling as if they are actually reliving the event)
  2. Persistent avoidance of anything that reminds them of the traumatic incident, as well as a numbed response (e.g. avoiding people, places, and/or activities associated with the trauma; limited emotional expression; feeling detached from others; inability to recall important details of the trauma)
  3. Persistent arousal symptoms (e.g. sleep problems, irritability, poor concentration, being easily startled)

What do you think?

Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)

Tell us what you think!

17 comments

  1. Profile photo of Stella Stella says:

    very hard i have suffered from ptsd for 13 years. i dont think it will ever go away but every day its easier to deal with.beacuse of my 4 children and one on the way they make it easier because i see i have something to live for.

  2. Profile photo of Stephanie Stephanie says:

    It is sad at how common PTSD is

  3. Profile photo of LIZ says:

    very interesting article, i didnt know so many things about this, but i love to learn

  4. Profile photo of LeMona LeMona says:

    I believe I have PTSD but not too certain only because I find myself very depressed, especially when it’s just my son and myself. I am certain that I’ve had for a very long time due to that I was molested by my uncle, who til this day walks free. Reason he’s not in jail doing time for what he’s done is my grandmother’s health. I still carry that burden and I am very fearful that possibly the PTSD I have might affect my role in being a mother to my 8 week old son. Is there any great books that I can read at home to prevent it’s progress? I want control over the PTSD, not have the PTSD have control over me.

    • Profile photo of kim kim says:

      I was raped by a man from the town i went to high school and because of hardships my boyfriend and i had to move back in with my mom in that same small town and i am constantly worried i’ll see him everywhere i go. I am very happy with most of my life (loving family, amazing boyfriend, and now a baby) i still find myself not wanting to be around people ever. I have days where i don’t know if my baby will feel distant from me or disconnected because of the vibe i feel i exert. You need to have a great support system suffering from PTSD, if you don’t the harder it will be on you! also, finding more ways to bond with your baby and get some help because that life you created will be the best thing that ever happened to you!

  5. Profile photo of veronica veronica says:

    I went through this with my first child and im pregnant with my second child. Im afraid im gonna go through it again but worse this go around could this be possible?

  6. Profile photo of Kathryn Kathryn says:

    I had ptsd since I was 14 from a rape and I started seeing a therapist right away and got a lot of help, and the nightmares finally started dying down and it seemed like everything was getting better, then the end of August a week after finding out I’m pregnant, I watched my fiancé get hit by a semi truck after exiting the car when we were in a minor accident. So now here I am 24 weeks pregnant and grieving over the loss of my fiancé, and baby’s father. The ptsd is back of course, but I am seeing a therapist again and going to support groups and such, but really people need to realize seeing a therapist doesn’t mean you’re crazy, if you suffer from ptsd or anything like it things won’t get better if you don’t get help.

    • Profile photo of Kim ShannonEditor Kim Shannon says:

      Hi Kathryn! You have been through so much; but it sounds like you are doing everything you can to be the best woman you can be for yourself and your future child. I wish more people were able to approach life’s roadblocks in this same way. Good luck to you! Keep your head up and stay strong – you’re an example to others with similar struggles! Thanks for sharing your story with us.

  7. Profile photo of Madison Madison says:

    I don’t have this problem, but my heart goes out to everyone who does.

  8. Profile photo of Lisa Lisa says:

    As a child I was physically, emotionally and sexually abused. I’m 19 now, and have been seeing a therapist since I was 12. Finally I was starting to sort of heal over everything that happened to me as a child, and now it’s worse. Two days ago I was released from the hospital after I miscarried what would have been my first child. Since then I have nightmares about my baby drowning in blood, being choked by its umbilical cord, etc. Other times the guy who did all of that to me in my childhood finds my baby & does things, sexual & physically harmful, to it. It would seem like PTSD is going to be a part of my life for a long time, if not my whole life.

    • Profile photo of Megan KlayEditor Megan Klay says:

      I’m so sorry to hear that these things happened to you, Lisa. And I’m very sorry to hear about the loss of your baby and the nightmares you’ve had. All the best to you!

    • Profile photo of Melanie DenneyEditor Melanie Denney says:

      So sorry for your loss, Lisa. Your strength and openness is truly something to be admired. I hope that someday you’ll be free of these nightmares. I also hope that you can feel the outpouring of love and support that we try to exude here. Wishing you peace, comfort, and a beautiful future. Take care.

  9. Profile photo of Liz Liz says:

    I have PTSD from repeated marital rape and other forms of domestic abuse. It’s not a joke, and it’s something you have to be serious about healing from. In March I will be three years away from him, and I am now for the last few months, able to manage it. I am not ready for dating, but I am EXTREMELY proud of myself.

    I am proud of ANYONE who has been through it, is going through it, or may go through it. There absolutely needs to be more education about domestic violence and sexual assault out there, and there needs to be more talk about it!

  10. Profile photo of Timothy Timothy says:

    Never had this problem “yet”

  11. Profile photo of Nat Nat says:

    the “PTSD workbook” is a great starting resource for people struggling I know it helped me a ton through the first stages of healing and you also need to remember that PTSD is something you learn to live with rather then cure. when you learn your triggers and learn to desensitize your self you are well on your way but there will be bad days when something sneaks up on you or a trigger you were not aware of jump out. Life is a journey and life with PTSD is a lot about getting to know yourself and taking care of yourself.

  12. Profile photo of Samantha Samantha says:

    Unfortunately I have PTSD, not only from sexual assault as a young girl but also a victim of domestic violence. If you have PTSD get help! Don’t be ashamed.

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