What is post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)?
SADAG says that a diagnosis of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is made when the symptoms cause distress and interference in a person’s daily life. They say that it is ‘a debilitating condition which follows a traumatic event’.
The patient may have either experienced or witnessed the traumatic event. Traumatic events may include war, domestic violence, hijackings, burglaries, natural disasters such as earthquakes, etc.
What are the symptoms of PTSD?
Whilst people who suffer with PTSD usually experience symptoms within three months of the traumatic event, the condition may sometimes surface months or even years later.
Patients may experience intrusive symptoms, avoidance symptoms and symptoms of hyper-arousal.
Intrusive symptoms include memories or flashbacks, repetitive play, painful emotions or feelings surrounding the traumatic event that basically intrude in a person’s life.
Avoidance symptoms can ‘affect a person’s relationships with other people, because he or she will avoid close emotional ties with family, friends and colleagues’. Situations that may act as reminders of the traumatic event that was experienced may be avoided for the fear of it bringing back feelings of the original trauma. For example, a ‘hijack victim, for example, may find it extremely frightening to drive’.
Hyper-arousal symptoms occur when PTSD patients ‘act as if they are continually threatened by the trauma that caused their illness. Sufferers often become irritable, even when not provoked, and may have trouble concentrating or remembering current information’, according to SADAG. They may experience insomnia, panic attacks and physical symptoms such as headaches or stomach pains.
Sometimes sufferers of PTSD may abuse alcohol or drugs in an attempt to temporarily ‘free themselves’ from the situation. They may also be at risk for committing suicide due to having poor control over impulses.
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