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Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder: Causes And Coping Mechanisms

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With the recent tragedy in Newtown, there have been questions asked about post-traumatic stress disorder, PTSD, and if these poor children are at risk. PTSD is known as an anxiety disorder and can affect anyone who has seen or experienced a traumatic event.

The common causes of PTSD include war, rape, terrorism, physical assault, and any threat of death or serious injury. The symptoms of PTSD have a very wide range and typically start within 3 months of the “stressor”. A stressor is the triggering event that causes PTSD, or causes the symptoms of it.

Mild symptoms include mild anxiety, nightmares, avoidance of stressful events, and general malaise. Medium symptoms include social withdrawal, depression, mild flashbacks of the stressor, and addiction problems. Severe symptoms include psychosis, reliving the events, and also extreme physical symptoms, which can include temporary blindness, deafness, nervous ticks, and paralysis.

Another component of post-traumatic stress disorder is survivors guilt. This occurs when the affected person does not believe they deserve to have survived while others have died.

There are no definitive tests for PTSD. A doctor will have to take the patient through mental health and physical health exams. A related illness, acute stress disorder, is much like PTSD but the symptoms are present for less than 30 days. PTSD symptoms occur for more than 30 days.

Treatment options for PTSD start with emotional support. Family, friends, or support groups will help the patient cope with the emotional toll of their stressor. Desensitization treatment has been found to be very effective for PTSD. This involves remembering and reliving the stressor situation with mental health professionals in a secure environment. This treatment takes place slowly, over a number of weeks or months. Overtime the patient should learn to cope with the frightening memories and process the situation better.

Support groups are vitally important for a person with PTSD. Contact your local health care provider for information of support groups in your area.

Communication with your health care provider is the best thing you can do if you have PTSD. Drug and alcohol abuse are common complications to PTSD. Suicidal or homicidal thoughts can occur with PTSD. Contact your doctor or mental health specialist immediately if you experience any of the following: depression, feeling overwhelmed, inability to control your thoughts or behavior, and if you’re thinking of harming yourself or others.

Treatment and recovery of PTSD is dependent on being honest with health care professions and your loved ones. Seek social support and get treatment immediately if you experience any symptoms.

Sources: PubMed Health, Canadian Mental Health Association

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