What is Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder?

When people live through a traumatic event such as a war, an act of violence, a rape, a serious accident, an act of terrorism, or have been seriously threatened, they may experience  Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, also known as PTSD. This is a mental health disorder that affects approximately 3.5% of the U.S. population. PTSD is known to occur more commonly in women than men and certain ethnic groups including Latinos, African Americans and American Indians.

When people go through traumatic events they may not necessarily experience the effects immediately. It is not uncommon for the symptoms to start anywhere from a month to several years after the event.  Sometimes traumatic events that occur during childhood may not manifest until later in life.

Symptoms of PTSD can vary from person to person and are divided into four groups: Intrusive memories, avoidance, changes in emotional and physical reactions, and negative changes in thinking.

Symptoms of intrusive memories include:

  • Flashbacks
  • Nightmares
  • Severe emotional distress or physical reactions

Symptoms of avoidance include:

  • Avoiding certain places that remind you of the event
  • Avoiding talking about the event

Symptoms of changes in emotional and physical reactions include:

  • Easily frightened
  • Difficulty sleeping
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Aggressive behavior

Symptoms of negative changes in thinking include:

  • Feeling hopeless
  • Negative thoughts about the world or yourself
  • Difficulty maintain relationships
  • Sense of detachment

Long-term PTSD may lead to alcohol or substance abuse, eating disorders, thoughts of suicide or depression. Complications can also lead to poor coping skills, loss of work, loss of relationships and health complications.

Anyone who has experienced a traumatic event and has any PTSD symptoms that last more than a few weeks should seek professional care. If any of the symptoms are so severe that they may lead to physical danger, for themselves or to someone else, 911 should be called immediately. If you would like to schedule an appointment with a mental health professional at Jamaica Hospital Medical Center please call,  718-206-5575