Post Traumatic Stress
Post traumatic stress is defined as abnormal feelings of fear, tension and anxiety occurring after a frightening experience. Generally referred to as post traumatic stress disorder or PTSD, this condition is less common than other types of anxiety disorders, affecting up to 3% of the general population.
Although theoretically anyone can develop this condition after a life threatening situation, people undergoing chronic traumas that repeat for weeks or months – such as childhood physical abuse, domestic violence or captivity during a war – are more at risk of to developing this ailment. If the environment is protracted and the trauma is recurrent then complex post traumatic stress disorder or C-PTSD can occur and this condition – as its name suggests – is even harder to treat.
Most people going through traumatic events have difficulties adjusting their behavior and thinking patterns and coping with their feelings, insecurities and upsetting memories for a while. However, these symptoms generally subside after a period of time, without affecting the sufferer’s quality of life and self-perception in an irreversible manner.
Unfortunately, some people don’t manage to overcome their feelings of fear and anxiety and they keep having uncontrollable thoughts regarding the traumatic events and flashbacks reminding them of unpleasant details of the anxiety-inducing event. Post traumatic stress may occur not only in people going through dramatic and horrifying situations, but also in those witnessing or learning about events that cause intense fear and horror.
The most common causes of post traumatic stress disorder are:
- Natural disasters, such as fire or earthquakes,
- Physical attacks, molestation and abuse, torture, kidnapping,
- Combat exposure, civil conflicts, robberies and terrorist attacks,
- Car accidents, plane crash, man-made disasters,
- Threatening medical diagnosis,
- Death, either of a loved one or fear of your own,
- Guilt feelings for traumatic events suffered by a loved one,
Although it is normal to feel frightened after such an event and to develop anxious behaviors that last for days or weeks, feeling constantly tense, sad, disconnected and horrified may be a sign of a pathological condition. The trauma in these cases is so overwhelming that the patient can barely manage the upsetting symptoms, which will ultimately interfere with daily activities and will affect the quality of the sufferer’s life.
Risk Factors for Post Traumatic Stress
Besides the mentioned causes of PTSD, there are also risk factors that may favor the occurrence of this mental problem. This means that certain categories of people are more prone to developing this anxiety disorder after witnessing or experiencing a dramatic event. And although being aware of these factors isn’t enough for preventing the occurrence of typical PTSD symptoms after a traumatic experience, knowing that you are more likely than others to develop such a problem may be useful for getting diagnosed and receiving appropriate treatment in the early stages of this condition.
Common risk factors:
- Family history of anxiety disorders, including depression, post traumatic stress disorder or other mental ailments
- History of physical abuse, traumatic experiences during childhood
- Personal or family history of substance abuse
- Living and working under high stress conditions
- Lack of family or friends support in everyday life or after a life threatening situation
- Women are also known to be more at risk
About 1 in 3 people in these categories find themselves unable to cope with stress and anxiety appearing after a traumatic experience. However, they often avoid seeing a specialist, because they are ashamed of talking about their feelings and prefer to act like the traumatic event never took place. They become emotionally numb, they develop unhealthy behavior and thinking patterns and end up living in social isolation.
Therefore, if you have experienced or witnessed a terrifying situation and you still feel anxious after more than 6 weeks since the event took place, you may be suffering from post traumatic stress so you should talk about your symptoms with an appropriate health care professional.