Posttraumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)

Post-traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) results from experiencing, or witnessing, a traumatic event involving actual or threatened death, or serious injury to oneself or others. Such traumas may include a sexual or physical assault, a natural disaster, an accident, or combat.

There are three main clusters of PTSD symptoms: 1) those related to re‐experiencing the trauma through nightmares and flashbacks; 2) those related to avoidance of situations reminiscent of the trauma. For example, a rape survivor may avoid sexual intimacy; person who has been in a car accident may avoid driving. Avoiding thinking about the trauma, and feeling virtually any emotions, are also part of this cluster; and 3) hyperarousal, which includes sleeping disturbance, being easily startled, a feeling that further danger is likely to happen, concentration difficulties, and irritability.

It is normal to experience some of the above symptoms following a traumatic event.  When a person’s sense of safety and trust are violated, it is normal to feel distressed, have bad dreams, have trouble sleeping, etc. Usually the symptoms subside after a few weeks. However, in some people the symptoms last more than a few weeks and cause ongoing problems; at this point they become PTSD. A proportion of PTSD sufferers, however, do not show any symptoms for weeks or months. People with PTSD remain in psychological shock feel stressed or frightened even when they are no longer in danger.