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    Understanding Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder -- Symptoms

    What Are the Symptoms of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder?

    Post-traumatic stress disorder -- or PTSD -- is a condition in which one's life has been disrupted by an actual or perceived event that was life-threatening or violent or posed a risk for serious injury. 

    Someone who has experienced severe trauma -- war, combat, natural disaster, physical or sexual abuse -- or witnessed violence, such as murder or physical abuse, may display one or more of these symptoms:

    Intrusion (re-experiencing):

    • Reliving the event with repeated flashbacks or recurring dreams of the event (Children may not remember the whole event, but may be haunted by a single image. They may express their fear by repeatedly play-acting an event or action.)
    • Frightening or disturbing dreams
    • Trouble sleeping
    • Outbursts of anger
    • Intense distress if exposed to anything resembling the event

    Hypervigilance (hyperarousal and  reactivity):

    • Preoccupation with possible unknown threats, constantly watching and scanning surroundings, startling easiiy. A persistent sense of insecurity

    Avoidance behaviors:

    • Efforts to avoid any people or activities that may arouse recollection of the trauma

    Changes in mood and thinking:

    • Trouble recalling trauma-related events
    • Distorted beliefs about the world or oneself (for example, being all bad)
    • Negative or detached emotions
    • Loss of interest

    Other symptoms may involve:

    • Psychological numbing
    • Inability to relate to others
    • Chronic physical symptoms such as pain, headaches, or irritable bowels
    • In young children: agitated behavior, difficulty concentrating, or developmental regression in such things as toilet training or speech
    • No sense of a future -- no expectation of having a family, of having a career, or of living to old age
    • Dissociation, whereby someone can experience derealization or depersonalization


    See Your Doctor About PTSD If:

    If you've suffered a traumatic experience, it's best to seek help from a mental health professional. Don't wait for symptoms to appear.

    If you are having symptoms of PTSD, you don't have to keep suffering. Seek help from a mental health professional. Treatments are available.

    WebMD Medical Reference

    Reviewed by Joseph Goldberg, MD on March 22, 2015

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