Posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is a natural emotional response to frightening or dangerous experiences that involve actual or threatened serious harm to oneself or others. However, for some people, the thoughts or memories of these events seriously affect their lives, long after any real danger has passed. These types of experiences are called “traumatic.”
PTSD usually appears within three months of the event, but sometimes symptoms may not appear for years. Common symptoms include:
PTSD is a response to traumatic life events, such as car crashes, fires, bombings, rape, torture or seeing a family member, friend or other person harmed or killed. Being involved in a natural disaster, such as a hurricane, flood or earthquake, can also lead to PTSD.
Some people experience traumatic events and do not develop PTSD. Many factors play a part in whether a person will develop the disorder. Risk factors make a person more likely to get PTSD, whereas protective factors reduce the likelihood of developing the disorder.
Risk factors for PTSD include:
Protective factors that may reduce the risk of developing PTSD include:
People can recover from PTSD. Some recover in six months, while others take much longer. Everyone’s experience is different.
Trauma counselling or therapy can be done individually or in a group, and can be very helpful for people with PTSD. Family counselling and individual treatment can help with relationship troubles. Psychiatrists and family doctors can prescribe medication for depression, nervousness and sleep problems, which are common in people with PTSD. Medication works best when a person is also in counselling. Therapy should be adapted to best suit each client.
Having support following a traumatic event is very important for those with PTSD. Some examples of helpful supports include:
Posttraumatic Stress Disorder © 2006 Centre for Addiction and Mental Health
Post-traumatic stress disorder © 2016 National Institute of Mental Health
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