Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is a mental health condition that causes a person to feel threatened and afraid when there is no threat. When people are in real danger, several changes occur within the body to help them survive or avoid the threat. This is often known as a "fight or flight" response where chemicals are released to prompt the reaction to the threat. But when a person has PTSD, the body enters this state even when there is no danger.
Post-traumatic stress disorder is usually associated with war veterans, but it affects many others who suffer traumatic events. For example, people who are victims of crimes, car accidents or natural disasters also frequently experience PTSD afterward.
Symptoms of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder
The typical case of PTSD will involve three categories of symptoms: re-experiencing, avoidance or hyperarousal. Re-experiencing symptoms bring back the trauma all over again and include flashbacks, frightening thoughts or bad dreams. With avoidance symptoms, the person with PTSD tends to withdraw from people or activities that were once enjoyable. Finally, with hyperarousal symptoms, a person with PTSD may seem constantly on edge, easily startled or ready to snap at any moment. He or she may also have difficulty sleeping.
PTSD can be treated, typically with some combination of psychotherapy and medication. The types of therapy that are helpful for PTSD include talk therapy and cognitive behavioral therapy. The antidepressants paroxetine (Paxil) and sertraline (Zoloft) are also approved for treating adults with PTSD.
SOURCE: U.S. National Institute of Mental Health
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