Basic Facts

Post Traumatic Stress Disorder Basic Facts: Anxiety Resulting From Chronic Stressors or Trauma

The NIHM statistics for the U.S. reveal that approximately 7.7 million Americans are experiencing the disorder and many more people worldwide. The majority of sufferers are adults, with the most common age of onset being people in their early 20s.

Who Experiences PTSD?

PTSD is a common anxiety disorder partly due to the fact that it affects millions of war veterans who have developed this condition of chronic stress during wartime, following combat duties. In the early days of its recognition in soldiers, it was referred to by names such as “combat fatigue” and “soldier’s heart.”

It can also result from other traumatic experiences, including accidents that result in serious physical injuries to oneself or from witnessing or causing accidents in which death or injury occurs to loved ones or to anyone who is terminally injured.

PTSD can also result in those who have had violent and/or sexually deviant behaviors perpetrated upon them and in those whose loved ones have suddenly passed away or have departed from them under difficult circumstances (sometimes referred to as “separation anxiety” in these cases).

Symptoms of PTSD

As with other anxiety disorders, PTSD causes frequent triggering of the “fight or flight response”, the anxiety mechanism that increases adrenaline in the body. The resulting symptoms can include panic attacks and free-floating type anxiety symptoms in which a person feels continually anxious, apprehensive and on-edge.

Some of the characteristic symptoms that set PTSD apart from other anxiety disorders include nightmares involving the traumatic event(s) experienced by the disorder sufferer and flashbacks in which they believe they are reliving the events that triggered the disorder. While flashbacks are a type of delusion, this does not place PTSD in the “psychosis” category, but it is still considered to be a condition of “neurosis.”

Treatments

The more common type of medication therapy used to treat PTSD patients is SSRI antidepressants. However, this type of anxiety disorder usually requires psychiatric therapy for patients to successfully cope with the disorder and for possible resolution of it (complete recovery). Cognitive Behavioral Therapy has been found to be highly successful in helping patients recover from this and other chronic anxiety disorders.

Other therapies that may be administered, in combination with drug treatment or as single treatments, include therapies called “Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing” (EMDR), “Exposure Therapy” (facing the event mentally to find closure) and aspects of therapy that help sexually traumatized victims realize they are not at fault and should not be experiencing guilt over their experiences.

Anyone who believes they may be experiencing symptoms of PTSD should see their medical doctor or a licensed mental health professional as soon as possible.

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