What is PTSD?
PTSD stands for Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, and the condition is caused by changes to the brain’s function and structure as a result of intense stress and trauma. Anyone who sees or experiences a traumatic event can develop PTSD. Intense feelings of helplessness, fear or pain can provide the catalyst for the condition to develop. People who could be at greater risk of developing PTSD are first responders to emergencies, survivors of physical or sexual assault, survivors of natural disasters, or any other situation that creates strong negative emotion.
Our brains are wired with the basic animal “fight or flight” instinct, where chemical messages in the brain prepare us to deal with a potentially threatening situation. Occasionally the brain misinterprets the information due to over-exposure or prolonged exposure to these chemicals, which contributes to PTSD.
After a traumatic event, people can experience symptoms that include insomnia, flashbacks to the event and associated memories, and feeling disconnected from the environment and people around them. In most cases, these symptoms fade on their own over the course of a few weeks; but if they don’t fade, or if they come back at a later date, then the person may be diagnosed with PTSD.
Women are twice as likely as men to develop PTSD, mostly because the kinds of abuse that can trigger the condition happen more often to women. PTSD often comes with other mental and physical health disorders; such as substance abuse, depression, insomnia, and suicidal tendencies. Around 30% of people with PTSD end up with a long-term condition. Untreated PTSD can make normal life tasks very difficult; such as forming and maintaining relationships, parenting and working.