Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, or PTSD as it is commonly called, is classified as an Anxiety Disorder in which an individual experiences intense fear, helplessness, horror, flashbacks, intrusive thoughts, and/or distressing sensory experiences associated with a traumatic event(s) that were experienced previously. There are numerous types of events that can trigger symptoms of PTSD including exposure to war, torture, rape, child sexual assaults, terrorism, a major car accident, living with a fatal illness, a natural disaster, witnessing a death, finding someone dead, or being physically assaulted. These are only some of the types of experiences that can trigger PTSD.
The common denominator in experiences that may trigger symptoms of PTSD is that they are believed to be beyond the scope of normal human experience and are, in some way, associated with intense fear, horror, or panic in the person who endured the traumatic event(s).
The symptoms of PTSD vary in severity. Some of the more common symptoms include nightmares about the event, trouble sleeping, recurring distressing thoughts or images, intense psychological distress where memories of the event are triggered, sweating, muscle twitching and rapid heartbeat. Some people will go through sprouts of unexplained anger or irritability and will be on alert for danger. Still others will have symptoms of guilt or feel a sense of “depersonalization” where they feel a sense of detachment from others – like they been tainted by the trauma and are no longer the same person they used to be before the traumatic experience.
Many people dealing with PTSD will seem fine on the outside and, instead, will bottle up their feelings or emotions. This type of reaction to traumatic experiences are often classified as an avoidance reaction and includes resorting to drug and alcohol use in an attempt to block out the painful memories, avoiding people and places, losing interest in activities that were previously enjoyable before the traumatic event(s), and being unable to feel joyous or loving feelings. Many sufferers will also feel detached from society and feel a sense of hopelessness.
PTSD is a treatable psychological disorder. There are ways, often through a combination of medication management and psychotherapy, to overcome the crippling effects of PTSD. Treatment often comes through working through the painful memories and, by improving coping skills and mental attitude in the present day, learning a new, healthier perspective on the person one has become. The key is to get professional help and not suffer alone.