What is Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder?
Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) is a reaction to psychological trauma which develops in response to actual or threatened extreme danger or personal injury. Examples include wartime experiences, natural disasters, sexual assault, bodily injury, incest, or even psychotic episodes (including placement in psychiatric hospitals). Torture almost always results in PTSD. Symptoms include nightmares, dissociative states, vivid flashback memories of the traumatic event, loss of control, emotional detachment (psychic numbing), hyper-arousal, and survivor guilt.
Typically, symptoms of PTSD consist of recurrent re-experiencing of the trauma, avoidance behaviors or phobias, and chronic physical signs related to hyper-arousal. These physical signs include insomnia, difficulty concentrating, hypervigilance, memory problems, and fatigue. PTSD may be associated with anxiety, depression, substance abuse, alcoholism, or personality disturbances. During wartime, PTSD was referred to as “shell-shock” or battle fatigue. In the press, PTSD has become strongly associated with survivors of military trauma. In the current era of war, more and more soldiers are surviving bodily injuries – most of them develop PTSD. Interestingly, persons who have had disaster training or medical training who experience traumatic events have a lower risk of developing PTSD. This protective effect can sometimes be replicated with administration of antidepressants or anti-anxiety medications or beta-blockers.