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Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)

Symptoms of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, also referred to as PTSD, initially develop in response to a terrifying event.  Sufferers report persistent and frightening thoughts and memories of their trauma.  They often report a feeling of numbness, particularly with people with whom they were previously close to.  Traumas associated with the development of PTSD may include combat, violent attacks such as mugging, rape or torture, being held captive, child abuse, serious accidents and natural disasters such as floods or earthquakes.  The triggering trauma can be either witnessed or experienced.

Symptoms often include sleep problems including nightmares, an exaggerated startle response, flashbacks, irritability and aggressiveness.  Sometimes the aggressiveness associated with PTSD results in violence.
The disorder can occur in any age group including children and tends to run in families.  Women are more likely than men to develop PTSD.  The intensity of the symptoms may lead to depression, substance abuse or other anxiety disorders.
Ordinary life events can remind PTSD sufferers of the trauma and trigger flashbacks or intrusive thoughts.  The flashbacks can be terribly realistic, sometimes leading to a loss of touch with reality and the sensation that the traumatic event is happening all over again.

The course of treatment can be difficult but the symptoms can be controlled.  Generally, treatment is recommended to be comprehensive and is thought to include both psychotherapy and medication.  The psychotherapy is often cognitive-behavioral and may occur individually and/or in the context of a group.  Medications most commonly prescribed for the symptoms of PTSD may include SSRI’s (selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors), benzodiazepines and beta-blockers.

Information from reliable sources can usually help in decreasing the anxiety related to PTSD.  Meditation, yoga and other wellness techniques help to learn calming exercises which may enhance the effects of therapy.  There is also evidence that aerobic exercise may be of value, and it is known that caffeine, illicit drugs, and even some over-the-counter cold medications can aggravate the symptoms of an anxiety disorder.

For more information on PTSD, you may want to consult some of the following resources listed below.

National Center for PTSD
U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs
116D VA Medical and Regional Office Center
White River Junction, VT 05009
Phone: 802-296-6300
Email: ncptsd@ncptsd.org
URL: http://www.ncptsd.org
Anxiety Disorders Association of America
8730 Georgia Ave., Suite 600
Silver Spring, MD 20910
Phone: 240-485-1001
Fax: 240-485-1035
URL: http://www.adaa.org
Association for Advancement of Behavior Therapy (AABT)
305 7th Avenue, 16th floor
New York, NY 10001
Phone: 212-647-1890
URL: http://www.aabt.org
Freedom from Fear
308 Seaview Avenue
Staten Island, NY 10305
Phone: 718-351-1717
URL: http://www.freedomfromfear.com
Center for Mental Health Services
Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration
Rm. 12-105 Parklawn Building
Rockville, MD 20857
Phone: 301-443-8956
Fax: 301-443-9050
URL: http://www.samhsa.gov/
National Institute of Mental Health
Office of Communications
6001 Executive Boulevard, Room 8184, MSC 9663
Bethesda, MD 20892-9663
Phone: 301-443-4513
Fax: 301-443-4279
Toll Free: 1-866-615-NIMH (6464)
TTY: 301-443-8431
Email: nimhinfo@nih.gov
URL: http://www.nimh.nih.gov