Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, also known as PTSD is a psychiatric disorder that can appear after experiencing or witnessing life-threatening events such as natural disasters, military combat, serious accidents, terrorist incidents, or violent personal assaults and attacks such as rape. Those who suffer from this disorder relive the traumatic experience they encountered through nightmares and flashbacks. These patients often have difficulty sleeping and also exhibit symptoms, which get in the way of or cause problems in their daily living.
Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder obviously existed long before its original diagnostic classification. There are written documentations dating back to the Civil War. This Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder-like disorder was known as "Da Costas Syndrome." PTSD is now becoming much more common and has been studied and found in all veteran populations studied, including veterans from World War II, Vietnam, the Korean conflict and the Persian Gulf War. PTSD is not only a problem fro veterans though as it has been found to occur in men and women, adults and children, Western and non-Western cultures and all socioeconomic groups.
Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder has clear biological and psychological symptoms. It is a very complicated disorder as it frequently occurs concurrently with another related disorder such as substance abuse, depression and other problems with physical and mental health. These associated disorders can also impair ones ability to function normally in the family and society. It has been known to be associated with marital problems, divorces, family conflicts, instability occupationally and parenting difficulties.
Most people who encounter a traumatic and unwanted experience will develop some, if not all of the symptoms of PTSD in the days and weeks following the event. There is data that states that roughly 20 percent of women and 8 percent of men will develop PTSD after such a traumatizing experience. From these individuals approximately 30 percent will go on to develop a chronic form of this disorder that will persist and inflict them throughout their lifetime. The patterns of symptoms in these patients vary from one person to another. Some individuals will have an increase of symptoms followed by a time of remission or a decrease in symptoms, while others may have a continuous flow of severe symptoms. It has been reported that some older veterans who have mild symptoms continuously have had an increase in severity at exposure to new stressful situations such as severe medical illness or a reminder of the traumatic time or different military events.
It is estimated that approximately 7.8 percent of all Americans will experience PTSD sometime in their life. Women are twice as likely as men to develop the disorder and the most common traumatic events linked to the disorder for women include: rape, physical attack, being threatened with a weapon, childhood physical abuse and sexual molestation. For men the most common events are: rape, exposure to combat, childhood physical abuse and childhood neglect. An astounding 30 percent of the men and women who have participated and spent time in war zones have developed PTSD. In addition to this another 20 to 25 percent have shown signs of partial PTSD at some time in their lives. This means that over half of all Vietnam veterans have experienced symptoms of serious stress.
Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder can develop in anyone. However, those individuals who experience a greater stress in another magnitude and intensity seem to be more likely at risk. In addition, those individuals who have prior vulnerability factors such as a lack of functional support, genetics, concurrent stressful events in life as well as an early age of onset and longer-lasting childhood trauma appear to be at a higher risk. Other factors that play a role in the onset of PTSD include individuals who report a higher level of perceived threat of danger, horror or fear and suffering or being upset. Negative social environments that cause shame, guilt and self- hatred have also been linked to the onset of PTSD.