Post Traumatic Stress Disorder is a specific medical condition. It is a mental health diagnosis that affects brain function after experiencing something real, unexpected, and profoundly disturbing.  People respond to trauma differently and not everyone who experiences a traumatic event develops Post Traumatic Stress Disorder or PTSD.  There are several factors that affect a person dealing with PTSD.

A person with PTSD is affected by intrusive thoughts surrounding the event.  This is a very intense feeling and involves the inability to rid yourself of images or emotions related to the traumatic event. It is very disturbing for two reasons.  An person is overcome with thoughts that are frightening or tragic, and feel entirely out of control.  It can be a thought directly related to the event, a vague feeling of fear ,or a sense of something being wrong.  Frequent and repetitive nightmares are a common symptom as well.   They can include reliving the trauma or be representative.  Waking nightmares or flashbacks are especially scary because they can be as vivid as reality.

A person dealing with PTSD can appear very anxious.  This presents as irritability, difficulty with concentration, being easily startled, trouble sleeping, and worrying about threats or perceived threats. This is called “hypervigilance.”  Someone might have trouble concentrating.  Surprises or loud noises make them jumpy.

Many times a distance is created between loved ones because a person is struggling with intimacy or opening up.  Those feelings can return.  Remember, someone with PTSD is far more anxious than they were before they developed the disorder.  One reason is there is an overload of adrenalin and it makes them less able to control their behavior. Also if sleep isn't good and restful, that will affect someone during waking hours.

As mentioned at the start, this is caused by experiencing an extremely difficult event.  Childhood abuse, tragic accidents, and exposure to war and violence are a few examples of where people may develop this condition.

Treatment for PTSD usually involves individual therapy, also known as verbal therapy.  This involves a person meeting with a trained therapist to talk about the event and make connections between what happened and effects on current functioning.  Cognitive Behavioral Therapy is a form of therapy that involves changing thought processes, and is known for being a helpful form of treatment.  As anxiety is a significant factor, it is usually helpful to learn skills and tools to cope with high levels of anxiety.  Working to bring those levels down, can serve to improve functioning.  Medication Management with a Medical Doctor is beneficial in many cases to help improvement while someone is learning skills and processing the trauma.

Remember not everyone who experiences a difficult situation will respond the same and not everyone develops this disorder.  Many people have an initial reaction to a significant event.  This is known as Acute Stress Reaction.  Usually those emotions or symptoms get better in a short amount of time.  If you or a loved one are dealing with these symptoms, and they do not appear to be getting better, it is a good idea to contact a Licensed Therapist or Doctor.