Being afraid when danger arises or becoming upset when something bad happens to is a natural physiological and psychological reaction. Everyone experiences this fear often within their lifetime. People who are stressed, anxious, and upset for weeks or even months later are oftentimes affected with post-traumatic stress disorder: feeling afraid long after the danger is over. This type of disorder not only affects the person with PTDS, but also the people around them.
Many seem to associate post-traumatic stress disorder with men who have experienced war. Although this assumption is quite accurate, many neglect to understand that women experience this anxiety as well. Sexual trauma is usually the number one reason why women experience PTSD; however, there are other causes for the disorder, including the following:
- being victimized by violence or witnessing violence
- death of a loved one or close friend
- accidents (car or plane crashes)
- natural disasters (hurricanes, tornadoes, and fires)
- sexual assault
- mental and/or physical abuse
Symptoms of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder
People who suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder oftentimes experience the trauma over and over again in the form of flashbacks or bad dreams. The ability to escape the traumatic experience is difficult because persistent thoughts and memories continuously haunt them. These emotional scars cause distance between loved ones and people they were once close to. Other symptoms that are related to PTSD are:
- uncontrollable scary thoughts
- avoiding places that may trigger a flashback or terrifying memory
- feelings of sadness and guilt
- often feeling isolated and alone
- sleep disorders
- irritability and edginess
- angry outbursts
- persistent thoughts of hurting oneself or others
If feelings of anxiousness, anger, and frightfulness last for longer than a month, then it is possible that post-traumatic stress disorder is the cause. It is important for individuals who are experiencing two or more of these symptoms to seek professional help. Doctors can devise treatments that can help victims of PTSD better cope and regain their lives.
Post-traumatic stress disorder can be treated and a doctor can help. Treatment may include cognitive behavioral therapy, medication, or both.
During cognitive behavioral therapy the person suffering from the disorder confronts memories that are associated with the event or events causing the trauma. People are taught to understand that the incident that occurred is not their responsibility and that there is no real reason for them to have feelings of guilt. Cognitive behavioral therapy also educates people about the disorder and its effects.
Medications are often used to treat PTSD. Doctors usually prescribe antidepressants that help decrease the physical symptoms associated with illness. Some examples of these are: Paxil, Zoloft, Prozac, and Wellbutrin. These medicines help alter environmental information that will trigger fearful thoughts, as well as decrease anxiety, depression, and panic.
The length of treatment varies from person to person. It can take as long as six to 12 weeks for some and for others, it can take years. It is important for those who are suffering from PTSD to understand that treatment that may work for one person does not necessarily mean it will work for them.
Post-traumatic stress disorder is a very serious mental illness that can severely alter a person way of life. Seeking professional help to deal with feelings of fear, anxiety, and anger attributed to traumatic events is critical.