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What are the symptoms of PTSD?

People respond in different ways to extreme trauma. Many people who experience extreme trauma do not develop PTSD. However, for those who do, PTSD symptoms usually appear within several weeks of the trauma, but some people don’t experience symptoms until months or even years later.

Three categories – or "clusters" – of symptoms are associated with PTSD.

Clusters

Re-living the event through recurring nightmares or other intrusive images that occur at any time. People who suffer from PTSD also have extreme emotional or physical reactions such as chills, heart palpitations or panic when faced with reminders of the event.


Avoiding reminders of the event, including places, people, thoughts or other activities associated with the trauma. PTSD sufferers may feel emotionally detached, withdraw from friends and family, and lose interest in everyday activities.


Being on guard or being hyper-aroused at all times, including feeling irritability or sudden anger, having difficulty sleeping or concentrating, or being overly alert or easily startled.
People with PTSD may have low self-esteem or relationship problems or may seem disconnected from their lives. Other problems that may mask or intensify symptoms include:

Psychiatric problems such as depression, dissociation (losing conscious awareness of the “here and now”) or another anxiety disorder like panic disorder.


Self-destructive behavior including:

- Alcohol or drug abuse
- Suicidal impulses
- High-risk sexual behaviors that may result in unintended pregnancy or sexually transmitted diseases (STD), including HIV
- Other high-risk behavior that may be life-endangering, such as fast or reckless driving

Physical complaints, any or all of which may be accompanied by depression, including:

- Chronic pain with no medical basis (frequently gynecological problems in women)
- Stress-related conditions such as chronic fatigue syndrome or fibromyalgia
- Stomach pain or other digestive problems such as irritable bowel syndrome or alternating bouts of diarrhea and constipation
- Eating disorders
- Breathing problems or asthma
- Headaches
- Muscle cramps or aches such as low back pain
- Cardiovascular problems
- Sleep disorders

Myths about Posttraumatic Stress Disorder

PTSD is a complex disorder that often is misunderstood. Not everyone who experiences a traumatic event will develop PTSD, but many people do.



MYTH: PTSD only affects war veterans.

FACT: Although PTSD does affect war veterans, PTSD can affect anyone. Almost 70 percent of Americans will be exposed to a traumatic event in their lifetime. Of those people, up to 20 percent will go on to develop PTSD. An estimated one out of 10 women will develop PTSD at sometime in their lives.

Victims of trauma related to physical and sexual assault face the greatest risk of developing PTSD. Women are about twice as likely to develop PTSD as men, perhaps because women are more likely to experience trauma that involves these types of interpersonal violence, including rape and severe beatings. Victims of domestic violence and childhood abuse also are at tremendous risk for PTSD.



MYTH: People should be able to move on with their lives after a traumatic event. Those who can’t cope are weak.

FACT: Many people who experience an extremely traumatic event go through an adjustment period following the experience. Most of these people are able to return to leading a normal life. However, the stress caused by trauma can affect all aspects of a person’s life, including mental, emotional and physical well-being. Research suggests that prolonged trauma may disrupt and alter brain chemistry. For some people, a traumatic event changes their views about themselves and the world around them. This may lead to the development of PTSD.



MYTH: People suffer from PTSD right after they experience a traumatic event.

FACT: PTSD symptoms usually develop within the first three months after trauma but may not appear until months or years have passed. These symptoms may continue for years following the trauma or, in some cases, symptoms may subside and reoccur later in life, which often is the case with victims of childhood abuse.

Some people don't recognize that they have PTSD because they may not associate their current symptoms with past trauma. In domestic violence situations, the victim may not realize that their prolonged, constant exposure to abuse puts them at risk.



KC
 
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