Post-traumatic stress disorder, or PTSD, is an anxiety disorder that stems from a life-threatening event or psychological trauma. When the event gets “stuck” in the nervous system, PTSD may develop. PTSD can manifest as nightmares, intense remembrances of the event, challenges in falling or staying asleep, feelings of unreasonable anger and constant edginess. In children, PTSD may appear as headaches, stomach aches, anxiety, fear, and acting out behavior.  Sufferers often avoid situations that may produce thoughts or recollections of the traumatic event.

Although PTSD is often associated with soldiers or police officers involved in life-threatening situations, the disorder can be triggered by any overwhelming experience. Chances for developing it are greatest if an incident is extreme, long-lasting or repeated over time. Premeditated, human-inflicted trauma, such as rape or physical attack, tends to be more closely linked to PTSD than impersonal accidents and disasters. The level to which the distressing incident was unforeseen and out of a person’s control also plays a role.

The fear felt during traumatic events can have lifelong consequences. Individuals who experience sudden, unprovoked and disturbing memory flashbacks or find themselves having repeated nightmares may be suffering from PTSD.

Many individuals will silently suffer with PTSD, and seek to minimize its effects through self-destructive activities, such as medicating traumatic memories with drugs, alcohol, food or sexual behaviors.

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