< Posttraumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)
An Online Community and Special Needs Resource

Trauma HQ

   Stress Coping Skills
   Symptoms of Stress
   Contact Us




Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)

Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) is a life threatening, debilitating disorder that can break down a sufferer’s body through anxiety and stress. Further it poses a significant suicide risk resulting from the brains neurological imbalance and chemical depression. People suffering from PTSD often live in denial.

Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) is the term for a severe and ongoing emotional reaction to an extreme psychological trauma  The latter may involve someone's actual death or a threat to the patient's or someone else's life, serious physical injury, or threat to physical and/or psychological integrity, to a degree that usual psychological defenses are incapable of coping.

It is important to make a distinction between PTSD and Traumatic stress, which is a similar condition, but of less intensity and duration.

As indicated in DSM-IV, it is possible for individuals to experience traumatic stress without developing posttraumatic stress disorder. Indeed, most people who suffer psychological trauma do not develop PTSD. For most, the emotional effects of such events subside after several months.

PTSD is thought to be primarily an anxiety disorder (possibly closely related to panic disorder and should not be confused with normal grief and adjustment after traumatic events.

PTSD symptoms may include: nightmares, flashbacks, emotional detachment or numbing of feelings (emotional self-mortification or dissociation), insomnia, avoidance of reminders and extreme distress when exposed to the reminders ("triggers"), loss of appetite, irritability, hypervigilance, memory loss (may appear as difficulty paying attention), excessive startle response, clinical depression, and anxiety.

A person suffering from PTSD may also exhibit one or more comorbid psychiatric disorders. These may include clinical depression (or bipolar disorder), general anxiety disorder, and a variety of addictions.

There are four types of symptoms: re-living symptoms, avoidance symptoms, numbing symptoms, and feeling keyed up.

Reliving the event (also called re-experiencing symptoms):

Bad memories of the traumatic event can come back at any time. You may feel the same fear and horror you did when the event took place. You may feel like you're going through the event again. This is called a flashback. Sometimes there is a trigger: a sound or sight that causes you to relive the event. Triggers might include:

  • Hearing a car backfire, which can bring back memories of gunfire and war for a combat veteran
  • Seeing a car accident, which can remind a crash survivor of his or her own accident
  • Seeing a news report of a sexual assault, which may bring back memories of assault for a woman who was raped.

Avoiding situations that remind you of the event:

You may try to avoid situations or people that trigger memories of the traumatic event. You may even avoid talking or thinking about the event.

  • A person who was in an earthquake may avoid watching television shows or movies in which there are earthquakes
  • A person who was robbed at gunpoint while ordering at a hamburger drive-in may avoid fast-food restaurants
  • Some people may keep very busy or avoid seeking help. This keeps them from having to think or talk about the event.

Feeling numb:

You may find it hard to express your feelings. This is another way to avoid memories.

  • You may not have positive or loving feelings toward other people and may stay away from relationships
  • You may not be interested in activities you used to enjoy
  • You may forget about parts of the traumatic event or not be able to talk about them.

Feeling keyed up (also called arousal or hyper-arousal symptoms):

You always may be alert and on the lookout for danger. This is known as increased emotional arousal. It can cause you to:

  • Suddenly become angry or irritable
  • Have a hard time sleeping
  • Have trouble concentrating
  • Fear for your safety and always feel on guard
  • Be very startled when someone surprises you

Fear leads to Anger