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Post Traumatic Disorder - Causes, Implications and Treatment of Post Traumatic Disorder

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Post traumatic disorder is an anxiety related disorder caused by exposure to traumatic events or experiences. Also referred to as post traumatic stress disorder or posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD), the condition may arise as a result of witnessing or experiencing distressing or terrifying events associated with wars, accidents, disasters or crimes. Individuals at risk of developing post traumatic stress disorder include combat veterans, survivors of major accidents or disasters and victims of crimes involving physical or sexual assault, including abuse that occurs in childhood.

Exposure to traumatic events often results in three distinct and predictable behavior patterns. Individuals may re-experience the event through thoughts or dreams. They may avoid news or discussions as well as people, places or things associated with the event. They may experience arousal symptoms, including loss of sleep, anger and irritability. While most individuals may exhibit these behaviors over a period of only a few days or weeks after the event, some – approximately 30 percent – will develop long term and chronic symptoms characteristic of post traumatic stress disorder.

Development of post traumatic disorder appears to be related to the severity of the underlying experience as well as one’s relationship to people and places associated with the event. Those who are immersed in intense life threatening experiences or who witness grave physical threats or injury to close friends and family members are at greater risk of developing long term symptoms, especially if the experience evokes feelings of intense fear, panic or hopelessness. Any event that results in an individual witnessing the loss of their home or the death of another person is highly significant. Traumatic experiences with these characteristics are both cause for concern and a basis for diagnosis when psychological symptoms of re-experience, avoidance and arousal last longer than one month.

Re-experience behaviors associated with post traumatic disorders may be manifested in flashbacks that evoke intense feelings of fear, panic or hopelessness. Avoidance mechanisms may evolve into emotional numbness and an inability to meet the demands of a career or family and social life. Arousal symptoms can result in sleep disorders or uncontrollable and socially unacceptable behaviors. Additionally, post traumatic stress disorder is linked to depression, substance abuse and other general medical disorders. The public and mental health implications are both very real and compelling.

As is the case with many psychological disorders, those who suffer the symptoms of post traumatic disorder often fail to seek treatment due to perceived notions about what others might think. Despite this challenge, there is a growing body of information available to the public coupled with substantial progress in terms of effective treatment. Cognitive behavior therapy (CBT), which focus on identification and modification of negative thoughts and behaviors associated with the disorder appear to be highly effective. Other treatments may include group and family therapies as well as the prescription of antidepressant medications.

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