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Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) - Definition, Symptoms & Causes

Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) is distress resulting from a traumatic event. PTSD disrupts a person's world view. It overwhelms their ability to cope or integrate their thoughts and emotions. Post Traumatic Stress Disorder involves flashbacks of a traumatic event, avoidance of reminders of it, and a state of alertness to danger.


Immediately after a traumatic event, a person may experience shock and dissociation from distressing thoughts and emotions. Denial may cause the person to appear and behave as if they are OK. Then the person may have a strong sense of anger, anxiety, fright, guilt, helplessness, hope, relief, sadness, shame or stress. Concentration problems, depression, despair, grief, headaches, memory problems, nightmares, panic attacks, sexual problems, sleep problems, tearfulness or tiredness may also occur.


The causes of PTSD are events outside of people's expectations of what life should involve. They include childhood abuse, domestic violence, serious accidents, military combat, natural disasters, physical abuse, physical illness, rape, sexual abuse, terminal illness, terrorism, being held hostage, and being a prisoner of war. People react to an event in different ways. One person may experience psychological trauma. Another may not experience psychological trauma.

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Updated 13 June 2013