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What is Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder?

Posttraumatic stress disorder, which is brought on by traumatic events, is one of the most common mental health diagnosis’s. An individual may develop PTSD symptoms at any point in their life, regardless of when a traumatic event occurred. The job of a mental health professional in this setting is to understand the trauma that their patient endured and lead them to better coping skills to help them live a happier and healthier life.

Recently, we have seen awareness of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) grow exponentially. Not only has the public become more aware of this medical condition, but so too have the scientific and medical communities. So, what exactly is PTSD? How does a professional diagnose PTSD? Can you treat PTSD? Read on as we break down this mental health condition into a much easier-to-understand explanation.

PTSD – A Simple Definition

Simply put, PTSD is a psychological, medical condition in which the sufferer has experienced a very traumatic event in some shape or form. As a result, their brain literally struggles to deal with this event and the act of moving forward normally from it. The sufferer then will often experience a number of subsequent, quite debilitating effects from the condition. They may deal with traumatic stress that can actually have physical symptoms. When PTSD symptoms remain untreated the disorder can lead varying risk factors such as mental health problems and mental illness.

Very often, sufferers of the condition have been active duty service members that experienced trauma while on military duty. In other cases, first responders, police, EMT’s and firefighters are often sufferers and at a high risk of developing PTSD as a result of continued, on-the-job trauma. On the other hand, any person can develop PTSD as all that is required essentially is having gone through a traumatic event.

Effects, Symptoms

As aforementioned, the effects of post-traumatic stress disorder can be debilitating and utterly life-changing. This all depends however on the individual person, the trauma, and many other circumstances. While all individuals may have different traumatic stress reactions, professionals have been studying this mental health disorder for quite some time and have seen the common risk factors. In short, the following is a list of the subsequent effects of PTSD that are often a reality for the sufferer:

  • Depression
  • Bipolar disorder
  • Trauma-induced ADHD
  • Acute Stress Disorder
  • Paranoia
  • Self-seclusion
  • Lethargy
  • Extreme senses of guilt
  • Sleep problems
  • Appetite loss
  • Drug and alcohol abuse
  • Suicide and more


The causes of this condition are all based in the experience of trauma. Like PTSD itself, the shape of that trauma can also take any number of forms. It could be an in-person experience such as a robbery, physical and sexual assault, sexual or physical abuse, rape, animal attack, or unexpected death. The condition’s cause could also be an event that took place away from the individual but that still has a great effect on them. Examples here would include the death of a loved one, the loss of a home due to a disaster, or some other loss of great magnitude that wasn’t necessarily experienced in-person.

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In addition to these causes, science has also begun to identify some secondary causes or elements that can also influence the onset of the condition in some. Genetics is one area in which predisposition to the condition is thought to be at least partially attributed. Environmental influences are also actively being investigated as secondary, influencing factors on the causation and onset of PTSD. Diet, chemical subjection, and even weather patterns and light are thought to possibly influence one’s inclination to become afflicted at the time of trauma.

Treatment, Outlook

As discussed by the Mayo Clinic article on PTSD, there are a number of treatment options out there that mainly fall into two categories: psychotherapy and medication. Psychotherapy is the use of professional counselors in counseling the affected as well as their loved ones. Medication is then often used in conjunction with such therapy techniques.

Some other options for those seeking therapy to treat PTSD may include:

  • Cognitive Processing Therapy
  • Prolonged Exposure Therapy
  • Exposure Therapy
  • EMDR Therapy

In addition to these avenues of approach, there is a third approach. Positive activity is that third approach. Here, any activity that can help to deal with the condition and make life better for the sufferer is sought to be utilized. These can be done at home or out, in the forms of sports, hobbies, and many other activities.

The outlook for this condition is quite variable. Severity and many other circumstances dictate outcomes. Absolute cure and the resulting shedding of the condition is possible and happens quite commonly after professional intervention is had.

PTSD is a very real medical condition. This article only serves to illustrate the basics of this complex condition. For more detailed, authoritative info on post-traumatic stress disorder, visit the official website for the National Center for PTSD  and the official website for the American Psychiatric Association. If you are severely struggling from PTSD and need help right away, you can reach the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline here.

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