Posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is a psychiatric disorder that can occur in people who have experienced or witnessed a traumatic event such as a natural disaster, a serious accident, a terrorist act, war/combat, rape or other violent personal assault.
PTSD has been known by many names in the past, such as “shell shock” during the years of World War I and “combat fatigue” after World War II. But PTSD does not just happen to combat veterans. PTSD can occur in all people, in people of any ethnicity, nationality or culture, and any age.
PTSD affects about 8 million American adults (3.5%), and can occur at any age, including childhood. Women are more likely to develop the disorder than men, and there is some evidence that it may run in families. PTSD is frequently accompanied by depression, substance abuse, or anxiety disorders. When other conditions are appropriately diagnosed and treated, the likelihood of successful treatment increases.
One in five post 9/11 veterans came home with PTSD and an estimated one in 11 people will experience PTSD in their lifetime. Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder occurs after experiencing extreme trauma or a life-threatening event. Over 540,000 Veterans have been diagnosed with PTSD. Roughly 30 percent of Vietnam veterans developed PTSD. The disorder also has been detected in as many as 10 percent of Gulf War (Desert Storm) veterans, about 6 percent to 11 percent of veterans of the Afghanistan war, and about 12 percent to 20 percent of veterans of the Iraq war.
Most people who experience a traumatic event will have reactions that may include shock, anger, nervousness, fear, and even guilt. These reactions are common, and for most people, while the consequences of PTSD can be severe, full recovery is possible if you can identify the symptoms in time.
People with PTSD continue to have intense, disturbing thoughts and feelings related to their experience that last long after the traumatic event has ended. They may relive the event through flashbacks or nightmares; they may feel sadness, fear or anger; and they may feel detached or estranged from other people. People with PTSD may avoid situations or people that remind them of the traumatic event, and they may have strong negative reactions to something as ordinary as a loud noise or an accidental touch.
Traumatic events that can cause PTSD include
Symptoms of PTSD fall into four categories. Specific symptoms can vary in severity.
Many people who are exposed to a traumatic event experience symptoms like those described above in the days following the event. For a person with PTSD, however, symptoms last for more than a month and often persist for months and sometimes years. Many individuals develop symptoms within three months of the trauma, but symptoms may appear later. For people with PTSD the symptoms cause significant distress or problems functioning.
Many people with PTSD tend to re-experience aspects of the traumatic event especially when they are exposed to events or objects reminiscent of the trauma. Anniversaries of the event, similarities in person, place or circumstance can also trigger symptoms. People with PTSD also experience intrusive memories or flashbacks, emotional numbness, sleep disturbances, anxiety, intense guilt, sadness, irritability, or outbursts of anger, and dissociative experiences. Many people with PTSD may try to avoid situations that remind them of the ordeal. When symptoms last more than one month, a diagnosis of PTSD may be relevant.
Symptoms associated with reliving the traumatic event:
Symptoms related to avoidance of reminders of the traumatic event:
Symptoms related to negative changes in thought or mood:
Arousal and reactivity symptoms:
Other symptoms related to depersonalization (feeling like an observer to one’s body and thoughts/feelings) or derealization (experiencing unreality of surroundings) may also exist for some individuals.
Doctors aren’t sure why some people get PTSD. As with most mental health problems, PTSD is probably caused by a complex mix of:
People of all ages can have post-traumatic stress disorder. However, some factors may make you more likely to develop PTSD after a traumatic event, such as:
Acute stress disorder (ASD) was introduced to identify people who, shortly after trauma exposure, are high risk for subsequent development of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). This contribution outlines the evidence for ASD as a predictor of subsequent PTSD. Available evidence in adults and children indicates that whereas people with ASD are high risk for PTSD, the majority of people who develop PTSD do not initially display ASD.
The diagnosis of acute stress disorder was introduced in DSM-IV. Like posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD), acute stress disorder is defined in DSM-IV as a disorder that follows experiencing, witnessing, or being confronted with events involving actual or threatened death, physical injury, or other threats to the physical integrity of the self or others. In addition, to meet the definition of an appropriate stressor , the person’s response has to involve intense fear, helplessness, or horror. Whereas PTSD reflects disturbance that has lasted for more than 1 month, acute stress disorder must last for a minimum of 2 days and can only be diagnosed up to 1 month after the stressor. Acute stress disorder also differs from PTSD in being explicitly formulated as a dissociative response to trauma. Thus, a diagnosis of acute stress disorder requires at least three dissociative symptoms but only one symptom from each of the re-experiencing, avoidance , and arousal categories. Impairment is also necessary and is formulated somewhat differently from that specified for PTSD. At this early stage in the formulation of acute stress disorder, little empirical evidence is available for the specific assumptions incorporated in DSM-IV.
The symptoms of ASD include:
You’ll have three or more of the following dissociative symptoms if you have ASD:
You’ll persistently re-experience the traumatic event in one or more of the following ways if you have ASD:
You may avoid stimuli that cause you to remember or re-experience the traumatic event, such as:
The symptoms of ASD may include anxiety and increased arousal. The symptoms of anxiety and increased arousal include:
The symptoms of ASD may cause you distress or disrupt important aspects of your life, such as your social or work settings. You may have an inability to start or complete necessary tasks, or an inability to tell others about the traumatic event.
If you or your loved one is suffering from ASD or PTSD then consult earliest with the psychiatrist.