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The Essentials of PTSD

Face of a man

PTSD. The acronym is mentioned in almost every action movie and certainly in any documentary covering a war. PTSD, or Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, first came into use shortly after the return of veterans of the Vietnam War and was officially recognized by the American Psychiatric Association in 1980. However, it has grown from a war zone label to anyone who experiences a highly traumatic event, including sexual violence, physical assault, accidents, and any such catastrophic and life-changing experiences. So, what are the symptoms of this mental health condition?

It can take one month to several years before symptoms appear after a traumatic event. The debilitating effects wreak havoc in any social or work situations and relationships. Here are a few things to look for:


  1.     Avoidance of talking about the event
  2.     Avoidance of the place where the incident occurred

Intrusive Memories

  1.     Reliving the event (flashbacks)
  2.     Nightmares
  3.     Distress over thoughts of the event


  1.     Negative thoughts and emotions about yourself and others
  2.     Hopelessness
  3.     Lack of memory recall about the event
  4.     Inability to maintain close relationships
  5.     Abandonment of previous activities once enjoyed
  6.     Feelings of apathy and emotional numbness

Change in Reactions

  1.     Easily startled or frightened
  2.     Apprehensive
  3.     Difficulty sleeping
  4.     Lack of concentration
  5.     Irritable, angry, and easily provoked to violence
  6.     Self-destructive behavior: over drinking, participating in dangerous activities
  7.     Feelings of guilt or shame

Note: Children will manifest slightly differently and may act out the event in play or have recurring nightmares.

Seeking Help

Warning signs will vary with PTSD and depending on life’s situations, may worsen with stresses. Knowing when to seek help is essential and should not be delayed. The sooner after a traumatic event a person can receive support, the better, as this will lessen the chance of that person turning to unhealthy coping methods like alcohol or drugs.

Sufferers from PTSD have many options: 1. Reach out to loved ones. 2. Contact your minister or someone of your faith 3. Make an appointment with your physician. 4. If you or a loved one is suicidal, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (1-800-273-8255).



Contributed by Angelica Mecham