What is PTSD?
Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, or PTSD, is an anxiety disorder that follows a traumatic event in which the person experienced or witnessed actual or threatened death or serious injury, or a threat to their physical well-being or that of someone else. To be considered PTSD, the reaction to the event must involve intense fear, helplessness or horror. In children, the reaction may be disorganized or agitated behavior.
Symptoms of PTSD may include recurrent and intrusive memories of the event, dreams, flashbacks (feeling as though the event were recurring), avoidance, detachment, difficulty sleeping, irritability, hypervigilance (the feeling of tension and the need to constantly be "on guard"), being very easily startled, and other symptoms. The symptoms must occur for more than one month -- if it has been less than one month, it may actually be an Acute Stress Disorder. The symptoms must cause clinically significant distress or impairment in normal functioning. Those with PTSD often have extreme difficulty in social, occupational, academic, and family environments.
Treatment of PTSD often involves a combination of therapy and psychotropic medication to manage the symptoms effectively. Treatment should be sought with a professional who specializes in PTSD/trauma.
Veterans with PTSD
PTSD is common in military veterans who have been exposed to combat. As many as 30 percent may meet the criteria for a diagnosis, and many more experience at least some of the symptoms. Continuing to function in their roles in the military and with their families may be extremely difficult. Veterans with PTSD may have a resurgence of symptoms during periods of adjustment or stress, or reminders of their military service.
Research indicates that the most effective therapeutic treatment for PTSD is cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT). CBT involves understanding the thoughts, feelings, and behaviors associated with PTSD and developing coping skills to address them appropriately. Therapy should be supportive and involve psychoeducation regarding symptoms and their effects on the person's functioning. There are many cognitive and relaxation techniques that can minimize symptoms and increase effective functioning.