Some people develop post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) after living through a shocking or dangerous experience. When you're in danger, your body's natural response is to feel scared.
That's when your body turns on its "fight or flight" response. In the face of something life-threatening, it revs up your heart rate, sends blood to your muscles to get ready to run, and amps up stress hormones to help fight off bleeding and infection in case you get hurt. Your brain tells your body that some of its functions are less important: Parts of the brain that store memory, emotion, and thinking get "turned off" for a little while.
Two doctor/brothers, Joel and Ian Gold, have identified symptoms of a mental
illness unique to our times: the Truman Show delusion, named for the 1998 movie
that starred Jim Carrey as a suburbanite whose movements were filmed 24/7 and
broadcast to the world. The two say a handful of individuals are convinced they
are stars of an imaginary reality show.
Though limited, their findings are creating a buzz in the media and the
psychiatric community: Is it possible that reality TV is shaping delusions?
Experiencing the sudden death of a close friend or family member
In the first month after a severe traumatic event, symptoms similar to PTSD are called an "acute stress disorder." If those symptoms arise or persist beyond the first month -- or develop even years after the event -- the term PTSD is used. Not everyone who lives through or sees a scary or dangerous experience develops PTSD.
There are four main "clusters" of symptoms that define PTSD, including:
Re-experiencing the traumatic event
Hyper-arousal (muscular and emotional tension)
Avoiding situations that may be reminders of the event
Persistent negative effects on thinking and mood (e.g. emotional numbing)
To be diagnosed with PTSD, specific symptoms from the following list must occur and last at least a month: