Unfortunately, post-traumatic stress disorder (abbreviated as PTSD) is in the news far too often as of late. As most of us known by now, post-traumatic stress disorder is a psychological disorder known as an anxiety disorder that occurs in people that have witnessed a traumatic event or an event that caused them extreme physical harm. There is no “general” cause of post-traumatic disorder. PTSD can be brought on by many things, from experiencing the horrors of combat in war (as with the recent veterans of Desert Storm, and the current American wars in Iraq and Afghanistan), from experiencing a physical trauma such as a car accident or the loss of a limb, or from witnessing or becoming a victim of violence, such as being sexually abused. No matter what causes post-traumatic stress disorder, it is clear that PTSD is a very real anxiety disorder brought on by a severely traumatic event.
People who have never experienced post-traumatic disorder or who have never known anyone who experiences post-traumatic stress disorder very well may not understand the severity of the condition. Sure, it is natural for everyone to experience fear, depression and anxiety after a traumatic occurrence such as an injury or witnessing a violent act, but not everyone is so deeply affected that they develop post-traumatic stress disorder. The fact that some people develop PTSD and some people do not has no bearing on the severity of the trauma experienced. Some people who experience major traumas do not suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder, and some people who experience great trauma from something that might not be universally recognized as trauma end up experiencing extreme PTSD. Further, the difference between PTSD and simply becoming anxious in a normal way after experiencing a trauma is that people suffering from PTSD experience their symptoms chronically, while people who experience a trauma without PTSD eventually manifest fewer and fewer anxieties about the trauma.
So what happens to someone who suffers from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)? The effects of PTSD can range from the merely difficult to the horrifying. For example, a PTSD sufferer may experience the original trauma over and over again in a chronic way. This could manifest in flashbacks while awake, or nightmares while asleep. PTSD sufferers may also develop an avoidance of stimuli associated with a trauma. For example, most people equate cinnamon with a homey, sweet smell. But if a PTSD sufferer was smelling cinnamon at the time of his or her trauma, he or she may very well suffer flashbacks or other PTSD symptoms at the merest hint of cinnamon in the air. Another symptom of PTSD is hypervigilance. Sufferers of post-traumatic stress disorder may have incredible difficult relaxing enough to sleep or enjoy life because they are always on guard against trauma. Other PTSD sufferers, even those who would never have harmed a fly before their trauma, may become prone to anger or even violence.
For a person to be diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder, her or she needs to show symptoms of PTSD for at least the span of one month. Further, he or she should be showing significant problems or impairment with social, job-related or other important areas of life. People suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder – and anyone who has experienced a trauma could be a sufferer – should seek immediate help from a mental health professional. PTSD can significantly damage a person’s quality of life, ability to main a job, and ability to maintain relationships. Luckily, doctors and medical scientists are constantly making advances in PTSD treatment and care. PTSD sufferers do not have to constantly relive their trauma. They can, and should, get professional help.