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Such events could be military combats, natural disasters, terrorist incidents, serious accidents, or violent personal assaults like raping, child abuse and similar. Most of the people who experienced these things are able to return to normal life within some given time, but there is also a great number of people who develop a serious stress reaction disorder that, will not go away on its own and may even get worse over time.
Many people say that they are literally haunted by the memories of traumatic experiences which disrupt their everyday activities.
The primary symptoms of PTSD
• Intrusion - the reliving of the trauma causing event on a fairly persistent basis such as:
o Recurring and disturbing memories of the event,
o Distressing dreams of the event,
o Feeling of re-experiencing the event itself, such as illusions, hallucinations and flashbacks,
o An intense fear during exposure to events that could resemble the past traumatic event
• Avoidance – This is very common mechanism in which, the individual attempts to avoid situations which are associated with the trauma
• Hyper arousal – When the individual has problems with feelings of increased arousal or vigilance that were not present before the trauma:
o Difficulty with sleep,
o Intense irritability and angry outbursts,
o Difficulty with concentration,
o Hyper vigilance,
o An over-exaggerated startle response when surprised,
Signs of increased panic and stress response, such as rapid breathing, higher heart rate, sweating etc. when exposed to situations that resemble the earlier trauma.
Other symptoms that could occur months or even years after the original trauma may include the following:
- amnesia, forgetfulness, inability to concentrate
- panic attacks
- obsession - the experience takes over your life
- feelings of nervousness, anxiety and fear
- depression and avoidance behavior
- excessive shame, embarrassment or guilt
- emotional numbness or detachment
- Lack of motivation
- Poor concentration
An estimated 7.8 percent of Americans experience PTSD at some point in their lives. Women (10.4%) are affected almost twice as much as men (5%). About 3.6 percent of U.S. adults aged 18 to 54 have PTSD during the course of a given year.
War is also an important risk factor because it is proven that, about 30 percent of men and women who have spent time in war zones experience PTSD. More than half of all male Vietnam veterans and almost half of all female Vietnam veterans have experienced PTSD.