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Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder:
Symptoms and Causes

After a traumatic experience, itís normal to feel frightened, sad, anxious, and disconnected. Usually, as time passes, the upset fades and you start to enjoy life again. But sometimes the trauma you experienced is so overwhelming that you find that you canít move on. You feel stuck with painful memories that donít fade and a constant sense of danger. If you went through a traumatic experience and are having trouble getting back to your regular life, reconnecting to others, and feeling safe again, you may be suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).


Typical symptoms include flashbacks, in the form of frequent thoughts, feelings, or memories of the traumatic event; physical problems such as difficulty digesting food; depression which causes the person to feel numb and uninterested in life. Hypervigilance is one of the hyperarousal symptoms of PTSD and refers to the experience of being constantly tense and "on guard," especially near things or places reminding him of the event.

Formal diagnostic criteria (both DSM-IV-TR and ICD-9) require that the symptoms last more than one month and cause significant impairment in social, occupational, or other important areas of functioning.


Virtually any trauma, defined as an event that is life-threatening or that severely compromises the physical or emotional well-being of an individual or causes intense fear, may cause PTSD.

Although the diagnosis of PTSD currently requires that the sufferer has a history of experiencing a traumatic event, people may develop PTSD in reaction to events that may not qualify as traumatic but can be devastating life events like divorce or unemployment.

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