What is PTSD? It stands for Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, and in order to know if you're suffering from it, you need to know what it is, how it develops, what its symptoms are, and most importantly, what steps you need to take to get diagnosed and start treatment, if necessary.
It is estimated that in the US, 7% to 8% of the population will have PTSD at least once in their lives, and that 5.2 million people suffer from PTSD during any given year. These people suffer from symptoms such as flashbacks of a traumatic event(s), difficulty sleeping, nightmares, feelings of aloneness, anger, worry, guilt, or sadness, which develop following exposure to traumatic event(s).
Those who have seen or been in combat are more likely to develop PTSD than the general population. For example, it is estimated that between 11% and 20% of veterans of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars suffer from PTSD, percentages that are much higher than the average population. Others cases of PTSD often develop amongst those who were directly exposed to or a victim of a traumatic event(s), those who were seriously hurt during a traumatic event, and those who went through long-lasting and/or severe trauma.
Of course, going through trauma doesn't mean that you'll develop PTSD. While 50% of women and 60% of men will experience at least one trauma in their lifetimes, most will not develop PTSD, as the figures mentioned above show. So what is the difference between those who develop PTSD, and those who don't? Researchers are working on that question, but there are certain risk factors that increase the likelihood of someone developing PTSD following a traumatic event. These include:
- Previous exposure to life-threatening trauma or violence, especially if it occurred during childhood
- Other mental health issues, or a family history of mental health issues
- Lack of a support system comprised of family and friends
- Recent loss of a loved one, especially if the death was unexpected
- Recent, stressful life changes
- Frequent alcohol use
- Being female, young, and/or poorly educated
If you are experiencing symptoms of PTSD following a traumatic event, it's important to seek medical help as soon as possible. If you are experiencing these symptoms, but don't feel as though any event you went through was traumatic, it's still important to see a doctor. Sometimes, PTSD can develop years later in reaction to a mildly traumatic event.
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