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Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder Basics


 Not everyone will develop post-traumatic stress disorder (APA 1994), the label for a cluster of distressing problems or symptoms that may continue to occur for at least a month following a traumatic event - problems associated with experiencing a traumatic event. For some people, these symptoms may not get better on their own or may even get worse over time.

Re-experiencing Symptoms People who develop PTSD will tend to re-experience the ordeal in the form of:Upsetting memories or recollections of the event, such as images or thoughts about the traumaticevent Recurrent and distressing dreams or nightmares related to the eventFlashback episodes (acting as if the events were reoccurring in the present moment) and frightening thoughts. Feeling upset by certain scents, sounds, places, or  people that can trigger these intrusive experiencesPhysiological reactivity, such as increased heart rate, or the danger or survival response, which typically is the experience of needing to defend oneself even when there is no imminent danger, triggered by reminders of the traumatic experienceA common response is to experience more of these symptoms around anniversaries of the event (even decades after the traumatic event occurred).

Avoidance Symptoms People with PTSD also tend to avoid reminders, places (for example, the scene of the trauma), or people(for instance, individuals who know about the trauma)that are associated with the traumatic event and may thus trigger responses to the trauma. Usually trauma survivors avoid these things in order to avoid experiencing general distress or emotional numbness.


It is not uncommon for  people to experience:

Efforts to avoid thoughts, feelings, or memories about the event.

Efforts to avoid activities, places, or conversations about the traumatic event.

Difficulties and inabilities recalling important pieces of the trauma.

A noticeable loss of interest in formerly important or pleasurable activities.

Feelings of detachment or estrangement from other people.

Restricted range of emotions, such as blunted emotions or difficulties having loving feelings toward other people or things.

A sense of shortened future and changes in the way they might think about or plan for the future.

Notice any thoughts, feelings, or bodily reactions coming up.

Symptoms of Increased Anxious Arousal

People with PTSD will experience physiological symptoms of arousal that were not present before the traumatic experience. Increased arousal symptoms can include:


Difficulties falling or staying asleepIncreased physiological responses, such as increased heart rate and feeling shaky or sweaty.


Difficulties concentrating or thinking clearly.

Hypervigilance, or feeling particularly agitated and on the lookout for danger.

Exaggerated startle response, such as getting startled by sudden noises or by people unexpectedly coming up from behindIt may be the case that you are experiencing some of these symptoms from time to time.


The above trauma because the mind and body are trying to cope with the previous traumatic experience and help keep you safe in the future. These symptoms become automatic responses to reminders of the trauma, even when you aren’t in any real danger. Studies suggest that about 8 percent of the general population will develop PTSD (Kessler et al. 1995).


Therefore, it is very important to note that many people who experience trauma will not develop PTSD. In fact, the majority of individuals who experience trauma will not develop severe psychological problems at all (Breslau andKessler 2001; Resnick et al. 1993)

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