A father hugging his upset little girl while talking on a cell phonePosttraumatic stress disorder, or PTSD, is generally thought of as something that military veterans or victims of war-time events are affected by.

But actually, PTSD is a serious condition that can develop after any ordeal, particularly sexual or physical assault, the death of a loved one, an accident, or a natural disaster.

About 3.6% of adult Americans (or 5.2 million people) suffer from PTSD during the course of a year, and an estimated 7.8 million Americans will experience PTSD at some point in their lives.

What is Posttraumatic Stress Disorder?

PTSD is a serious condition that can develop after a person has experienced or witnessed a traumatic or terrifying event in which serious physical harm occurred or was threatened. It can cause intense fear, helplessness, or horror.

What are the symptoms of PTSD?

Most people who experience a traumatic event will have various and extreme reactions that typically go away with time. However, in cases of PTSD, these feelings continue and even increase, preventing the person from living a normal life.

Symptoms of PTSD most often begin within three months of the event, but can sometimes begin years after the event.

Symptoms of PTSD often are grouped into three main categories, including:

Reliving: People with PTSD repeatedly relive the ordeal through thoughts and memories of the trauma. These may include flashbacks, hallucinations, and nightmares. They also may feel great distress when certain things remind them of the trauma.

Avoiding: The person may avoid people, places, thoughts, or situations that may remind him or her of the trauma. This can lead to feelings of detachment and isolation, as well as a loss of interest in activities that the person once enjoyed.

Increased/Decreased Emotion: This includes showing too much or too little affection; difficulty falling or staying asleep; irritability; outbursts of anger; difficulty concentrating; and being easily startled. The person may also suffer physical symptoms, such as increased blood pressure and heart rate, rapid breathing, muscle tension,nausea, and diarrhea.

Young children with PTSD may suffer from delayed development in areas such as toilet training, motor skills, and language.

The Faces of PTSD

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