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Post Traumatic Stress Disorder

Frightening and overwhelming traumatic experiences can have a strong impact on your mind and emotions, especially if they are life threatening. Post-traumatic stress disorder, or PTSD for short, is an anxiety disorder.

It is one of a range of psychological reactions you can have to a traumatic incident such as:

  • An accident

  • Sexual assault

  • Violence

  • A natural disaster, like floods and hurricanes

  • WarTorture.

Experiencing a stressful or upsetting event, such as breaking up with your boyfriend or girlfriend, is not on the same scale as the traumatic events, such as those listed above, which can cause PTSD.

How a traumatic experience might affect you

It is not uncommon to experience strong emotional reactions like fear, horror, and helplessness at the time of a traumatic experience. Other emotions like sadness, guilt and anger are often felt in the days that follow.

These sort of reactions are normal and don't necessarily mean that there's a more serious problem. If you are experiencing any of these feelings, it is important that you look after yourself. Most people will recover after a few weeks following a traumatic experience with the help of family and friends.

However, for a small group the distress following the event persists, and interferes with important areas of their functioning. In such cases, it can no longer be considered a normal response to traumatic exposure and a diagnosis of PTSD would be considered.

PTSD symptoms cover three main areas:

1. Intrusive memories

'Flashbacks', nightmares or daydreams 'intrude' into the life of someone with PTSD. They can be extremely vivid and sometimes make people feel as if the traumatic event is happening all over again.

2. Avoidance

A natural response is often to avoid people or situations that remind them of the frightening event. For instance, if it was a car accident, they may not be able to drive or be a passenger. People with PTSD can become so numb that they 'shut down', withdraw from life, and have trouble connecting with others.

3. Heightened arousal

People with 'heightened arousal' feel jumpy and on edge. Some are constantly on the lookout for signs of danger, as if another traumatic event could happen.


PTSD is treatable. With appropriate help sufferers can learn to come to terms with the traumatic event and move on with their lives.


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