Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is an anxiety disorder that can develop after experiencing a traumatic event, such as a natural disaster, serious accident, terrorist incident, sudden death of a loved one, war, or violent assault. Brain imaging studies show that a part of the brain critical to memory and emotion appears to be different in people with PTSD. These changes are thought to be responsible for intrusive memories and flashbacks that occur in people with this disorder. PTSD flashbacks may be so strong that individuals feel like they are actually re-living the traumatic event.

The flashbacks and anxiety related to PTSD can interfere with work, school and relationships, but these symptoms can be managed with proper support and treatment.

Symptoms of PTSD include fall into three categories: re-experiencing the traumatic event, avoiding reminders of the traumatic event and increased anxiety.

Re-experiencing the traumatic event:

  • Intrusive, upsetting memories of the event
  • Flashbacks
  • Nightmares
  • Feelings of intense distress when reminded of the trauma
  • Intense physical reactions to reminders of the event like pounding heart, rapid breathing, nausea, muscle tension and sweating

Avoiding reminders of the trauma

  • Avoiding activities, places, thoughts, or feelings that remind you of the trauma
  • Inability to remember parts of the traumatic event
  • Loss of interest in things you once enjoyed
  • Feeling disconnected or apathetic
  • Pessimistic about the future

Increased anxiety

  • Being jumpy and easily startled
  • Feeling irritable or having sudden outbursts of anger
  • Trouble sleeping
  • Feeling always on alert
  • Trouble concentrating or getting things done

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