Posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is an emotional condition that often occurs after direct or indirect exposure to a terrifying event in which physical harm was threatened, witnessed, or actually experienced. Symptoms of posttraumatic stress disorder usually develop within the first 3 months after the trauma, but they may not surface until months or even years have passed. These symptoms often continue for years following the trauma, or in some cases, may subside and return later in life if another event triggers memories of the trauma. In fact, anniversaries of the event can often cause a flood of emotions and unpleasant memories. Sometimes, the symptoms of the disorder are easy to identify - they often resemble the symptoms of depression. However, posttraumatic stress is not the same as depression.

  1. <B>Signs and symptoms of posttraumatic stress disorder include:</B>
  2. sleeplessness
  3. nightmares
  4. inability to get along with others, particularly in close relationships
  5. paranoia and distrust
  6. unwillingness to discuss or revisit in any way the site of the trauma
  7. persistent, intense fear and anxiety
  8. feeling easily irritated or agitated
  9. having difficulty concentrating
  10. feeling numb or detached
  11. no longer finding pleasure in previously enjoyable activities
  12. feeling helpless or "out of control"
  13. experiencing intense survivor guilt
  14. being preoccupied with the traumatic event
  15. physical symptoms such as headaches, gastrointestinal distress, or dizziness
  16. suicidal thoughts, plans, or gestures<BR><BR>
  17. <B>Traumatic events that can cause the disorder include:</B>
  18. violent assaults such as rape
  19. fire
  20. senseless acts of violence (such as school or neighborhood shootings)
  21. physical or sexual abuse
  22. natural or man-made disasters
  23. car accidents
  24. military combat (this form of posttraumatic stress disorder is sometimes called "shell shock")
  25. witnessing another person go through these kinds of traumatic events
  26. diagnoses of life-threatening medical illnesses (which is now recognized by mental health professionals as a trigger for the disorder in some individuals)