Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) was once known as “shell shock” or battle fatigue and was most commonly known as a disorder that affected war veterans. Today, experts recognize that it can result from any traumatic or terrifying event. It is characterized by unwanted, frightening and persistent thoughts, emotional numbness, and the reliving of the trauma in the form of nightmares or disturbing memories.
Symptoms may come and go. Sleep problems are also commonly reported as well as depression, a detached or numb feeling, anxiety, and substance abuse. Someone with PTSD is often more irritable or aggressive than before the trauma and may have trouble feeling affectionate. Anniversaries of the event and people, places or things that bring the event to mind are often distressing.
PTSD can occur at any age and may be mild or severe. Typically, the symptoms seem to be more severe if the trauma was initiated by a person (for example, witnessing a murder, as opposed to experiencing a tragic fire). Every day events can become triggers, reminding a PTSD sufferer of the event and provoking flashbacks and intrusive thoughts. Flashbacks can come in the form of sights, sounds, sensations, or even smells that cause the person to believe the trauma is happening again.
PTSD can be treated. Often treatment options are some combination of psychotherapy and medication. Those suffering with this disorder should seek treatment from a professional with specific experience in PTSD.