Post-traumatic stress disorder, or PTSD, is an anxiety disorder that can develop after exposure to or experiencing a traumatic event such as assualt, an accident or combat. PTSD can affect people of all ages and both genders. PTSD affects what is known as the “fight-or-flight” response, which is a natural and healthy reaction to a frightening event. But in people with PTSD, the “fight-or-flight” response is altered, so that they feel frightened even when there is no reason to be.
Signs and symptoms that may indicate the presence of PTSD include re-experiencing symptoms, avoidance and becoming easily stressed or scared. A person with PTSD might have nightmares or flashbacks of the traumatic event. To cope, a PTSD sufferer might avoid places that remind them of the trauma. Additionally, people with PTSD might find that they have trouble sleeping or startle easily. While such symptoms are normal after experiencing a traumatic event, these symptoms might point to PTSD if they last for more than a few weeks.
Children with PTSD can exhibit different or additional symptoms such as bedwetting, or being clingy with a parent or caregiver. Older children might feel guilty for not being able to prevent an accident from happening.
PTSD is treated with medications and/or psychotherapy. It is important for people with PTSD to be assessed and treated by mental health professionals, in order for treatment to be effective. Antidepressants are typically prescribed, and a person with PTSD might have to try more than on medication in order to find the one that works best for them. If a patient has trouble sleeping, a sleeping aid can be prescribed as well. Psychotherapy will usually last for 6 to 12 weeks and involves facing one’s fear and making sense of what happened.