Post Traumatic Stress Disorder; What Is It?

January 28, 2007

[Note] This is the first in what will be a weekly series about Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, the symptoms, it’s affect on our troops and their families, innovations and reasearch into this disorder and what can be done to help a person recover from it’s effects.

What exactly is Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, or PTSD? According to the National Institute of Mental Health, Post Traumatic Stress Disorder is an anxiety disorder that often develops after a traumatic or terrifying event or ordeal in which grave physical harm occurred or was threatened. Many types of traumatic events can cause or trigger PTSD reactions, such as violent personal assaults, natural or human caused disasters, accidents or military combat. The person who experiences PTSD may have been a person who was harmed in some manner, the harm may have occurred to a loved one, or they may have witnessed a harmful event that happened to a loved one or a stranger. PTSD was first brought to public attention in relation to military veterans who had participated in combat, however, PTSD can occur in anyone as a result of traumatic events such as muggings, rape, torture, being kidnapped or held hostage, child abuse, domestic violence, automobile accidents, train accidents, plane crashes, bombings, or natural disasters such as floods, earthquakes, hurricanes or tornados.

Not everyone experiencing a traumatic event will develop the symptoms of PTSD. Some may experience only mild symptoms, while others will experience severe symptoms. The symptoms of PTSD generally begin to manifest themselves within approximately 3 months of the traumatic event, though in some cases, the symptoms don’t begin to appear until years afterwards. The course that PTSD takes, varies from person to person. Some people will recover from the symptoms within a few months, while others will have symptoms that are of a much longer duration, possibly even lasting their entire lifetime, if left untreated. In some people, if not treated, the condition can become chronic.

PTSD affects people in all spectrums, not bounded by race, sex or age. In the United States today, approximately 7.7 million adults are affected by the symptoms of PTSD. PTSD however, can occur at any age, even childhood. Women are more likely than men to suffer from PTSD and there has been some research suggesting that PTSD can run in families. PTSD is very real and it’s symptoms can be so devastating, that it can affect the quality of life of the person suffering from it, as well as their family and friends.

Next week, I’ll detail the common signs and symptoms of PTSD.


11 Responses to “Post Traumatic Stress Disorder; What Is It?”

  1. Anthony on January 28th, 2007 9:00 am

    Thank you Terri. I can’t wait to read more, very educational for me.

  2. Terri on January 28th, 2007 9:07 am

    You’re welcome Anthony. Thanks for providing me with an avenue to get this information out there to our troops.

  3. Cliff on January 28th, 2007 4:22 pm

    I am curious whether PTSD - by definition, perhaps - necessarily follows a definable incident, or whether it may follow a prolonged series of incidents - e.g., the trauma a child suffers growing up in a dysfunctional household that ultimately (or perhaps not) leads to divorce of the child’s parents. Notwithstanding, I look forward to learning more about this, apparently, very common affliction. Thanks, Terri.

  4. Terri on January 28th, 2007 5:09 pm

    That depends Cliff. Each case is different and how severe the effects are is different in each case. In some people, all it takes is one traumatic incident. An example would be that of a rape victim, or perhaps someone involved in a horrific traffic accident. In others, you’re correct, PTSD can most definitely be caused by a prolonged series of incidents.

  5. Nephi on January 28th, 2007 6:36 pm

    Thanks for the informative post, Terri. I look forward to reading more about this affliction and how it affects people and, in particular, our troops.

    PS. Call it the east coast liberal in me or whatever, but it’s “its,” not “it’s” in the note. :) You go girl!

  6. Nikki on January 29th, 2007 8:36 am

    It would be interesting to see a study on the rates of PTSD in federal employees who deploy to combat zones. Frequently, civilians on the battlefield are faced with repetitive rocket and mortar attacks, convoy ambushes, IEDs and the exposure to combat injured or killed Soldiers. Undoubtedly, some of our civilian warfighter supporters are coming home and experience the same readjustment problems as some of our Soldiers. What has the Department of Defense done to study this phenomenon and track trends? What have they done to ensure civilians are screened and referred for care?

  7. Terri on January 29th, 2007 9:01 am

    Nikki there will be a symposium on just that topic on February 10, 2007 in Knoxville, Tn. They are recognizing that the contractors also experience the same problems with PTSD that our soldiers do and there are agencies that are now ready to step up to the plate and begin to do something about it. What I find a shame is the fact that their employers are basically ignoring the problem. To find out more about the symposium you can go here:

  8. Kat in GA: A Soldiers' Angel on February 1st, 2007 5:37 pm

    Thank you SO MUCH for posting about this… it is information we all NEED to know… (hugs) thanks so much. Will stay tuned…

  9. Terri on February 2nd, 2007 5:28 pm

    My pleasure Kat. You’re right, it is something that all of us need to be aware of, because it’s something that can affect ANYONE.

  10. on April 22nd, 2007 3:36 pm

    Thank You

  11. Terri on April 22nd, 2007 3:48 pm

    My pleasure Alex. PTSD and TBI are issues that need to be addressed.

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