Definition

 

PTSD is a psychological disorder that is the result of exposure to some form of dangerous, frightening, or shocking event or series of events.

 

To feel fearful during and after experiencing some form of traumatic event is normal, but those immediate sensations tend to dissipate as time passes. Such immediate effects might be the “fight or flight” reaction. Another might be the desire to hide or stay away from public places or situations similar to the original shocking experience. Further, it is normal to experience a variety of different feelings after such a shocking event, but the feelings decline in incidence as time goes on. As such, it can be said that most people “recover” from the shocking experience, and leave it, for the most part, in their past.

 

However, this effect does not happen for all people uniformly. For some people, due to the severe or intense nature of their experience and their own psychological makeup, the passage of time does not significantly diminish the adverse after-effects of what they experienced. This is a psychological disorder called Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, or PTSD. PTSD may be short-term--acute, or long-term--chronic. The experience of PTSD affects different people in different ways.

 

Signs and Symptoms of PTSD

 

The occurrence of differing forms of shocking events may be different for different people. For one person, it may have been an incident of domestic violence. For another person, it might be the death of a close friend or relative. One of the most common sources of PTSD is the aftermath of having fought in a wartime situation. Although many people have experiences these kinds of events, they do not all react to them in the same way.

 

When such a shocking experience takes place, under normal conditions, the intensities of the experience's reactions may dissipate in three or six months. For the individual reacting differently, the PTSD symptoms may take a period of three to six months to fully manifest themselves. For a few people, it could take a number of years before their symptoms and reactions are identified as such. Further, for some people, the symptoms may last for only a short period of time. That is “acute.” For other people, the symptoms may last for many years. That is “chronic.” Regardless of the duration of the PTSD reaction, it may demonstrate itself by adversely affecting interpersonal relationships, educational activity, and work experiences.

 

For psychologists, the diagnosis of PTSD requires the identification of a number of symptoms which the individual has been experiencing for a month or more:

 

  • The re-experiencing of the original shocking incident or situation

  • The development of one or more symptoms of avoidance

  • Experiences or arousal and reactivity under the circumstances of particular stimuli

  • The experiencing of at least two symptoms of cognition (thinking) and mood

 

Psychological counseling can assist in helping you to ameliorate the adverse psychological and social effects of PTSD through the use of a variety of therapies.

 

Next: More about PTSD symptoms