Posttraumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) is an anxiety disorder that can occur following the experience or witnessing of a traumatic life-threatening event such as military combat. Thousands of soldiers returning from the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan struggle with PTSD – often called “the invisible wounds of war.” According to a report published by Rand Corporation in 2008, PTSD has affected approximately one in five Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans.
Sadly, many Veterans must also cope with their negative ideas about having PTSD or what they think others will think of them for having PTSD and this can keep them from even trying to find help and support.
People with PTSD often feel haunted by their trauma memories. They have trouble sleeping, may have nightmares, often have strong startle reactions, problems with anger, and may avoid certain places or activities (for example, large crowds or watching war movies) that make them feel anxious. Very often, PTSD also impacts personal relationships.
What are the symptoms?
Although PTSD symptoms can either begin immediately following a traumatic event or start later, PTSD is not diagnosed unless the symptoms last for at least one month, and either cause significant distress or interfere with work or home life. PTSD sufferers generally exhibit symptoms that can be classified into four groups:
Watch a short video that describes these symptoms.
Often, people with PTSD feel like they are being haunted by what happened to them. The haunting nature of PTSD comes out in the intrusive symptoms. These can include nightmares or bad dreams, flashbacks or feeling like you're back there, thoughts and images that intrude upon you, panic attacks when you get triggered.
In general, people with PTSD are very avoidant of anything that reminds them of what happened. They don't want to think about it or go anywhere that can trigger them. They may avoid crowded places such as sporting events, concerts, restaurants, stores, and even family gatherings. They might not like to drive in traffic or under overpasses.
People often feel that the way they see themselves and the world changed fundamentally following what happened to them. They may appear to be emotionally numb and cut off from others around them. They may feel like there is danger around every corner and are just waiting for something bad to happen to them or someone they care about.
People with PTSD often feel that their bodies are on alert 24/7. They can have problems sleeping, feel anxious and agitated, and be hyper vigilant and easily startled. Trouble concentrating and being very angry or irritable are common.
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