Post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) can occur when a person has experienced a traumatic event in which there was an actual or perceived threat of death or injury to themselves of another. People with PTSD often re-live the traumatic event through distressing dreams, flashbacks, or by becoming agitated and/or hypervigilant around anniversaries or other dates that might symbolize the event. PTSD can occur following events such as natural disasters, war, imprisonment, assault, domestic abuse, neglect and abandonment, or rape. Many people experience these events. It is natural to feel afraid during and after a scary situation. This fear triggers changes in the body and central nervous system, which helps the body defend itself against danger, or to avoid it. This is the “flight-or-fight” response. Nearly everyone will experience a range of reactions after trauma, yet most people recover from initial symptoms naturally. Humans are designed to handle stress and trauma but when we are overwhelmed by traumatic events the stress and anxiety may stay “locked” in our nervous system. Some symptoms accompanying PTSD are often as follows:
- Reliving the event through dreams and/or flashbacks
- Body sensations that accompanied the event (i.e., fear, anxiety and distress, helplessness)
- Difficulty sleeping
- The person may be angry or irritable, may have difficulty concentrating
- Avoidance of the event: the person may be unable to remember important aspects of the trauma (suppression), may feel detached or numb, may lack interest in normal activities, and may stay away from people, places and things that remind them of the event. They may also avoid talking about the event.
- Anger or irritability
- The person may experience guilt at having survived the event and may have a sense of doom or feelings of helplessness or hopelessness about the future.