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Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder

Also called: PTSD

A disorder characterized by failure to recover after experiencing or witnessing a terrifying event.

Very common

More than 3 million US cases per year

  • Treatable by a medical professional
  • Medium-term: resolves within months
  • Requires a medical diagnosis
  • Lab tests or imaging not required

The condition may last months or years, with triggers that can bring back memories of the trauma accompanied by intense emotional and physical reactions.

Symptoms may include nightmares or flashbacks, avoidance of situations that bring back the trauma, heightened reactivity to stimuli, anxiety, or depressed mood.

Treatment includes different types of psychotherapy as well as medications to manage symptoms.

Ages affected

Symptoms

Requires a medical diagnosis

Symptoms may include nightmares or flashbacks, avoidance of situations that bring back the trauma, heightened reactivity to stimuli, anxiety, or depressed mood.

People may experience:

Behavioral: agitation, irritability, hostility, hypervigilance, self-destructive behavior, or social isolation
Psychological: flashback, fear, severe anxiety, or mistrust
Mood: loss of interest or pleasure in activities, guilt, or loneliness Sleep: insomnia or nightmares
Also common: emotional detachment or unwanted thoughts

Treatments

Treatment consists of medications and therapy

Treatment includes different types of psychotherapy as well as medications to manage symptoms.

Therapies

Cognitive behavioral therapy: A talk therapy focused on modifying negative thoughts, behaviors, and emotional responses associated with psychological distress.
Eye movement desensitization and reprocessing: Psychological treatment that reduces the stress of traumatic events through eye movements.
Exposure and response prevention: A talk therapy based on exposing feared or traumatic experiences within a safe setting in order to help reduce any associated psychological distress.

Medications

Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitor (SSRI): Eases symptoms of depressed mood and anxiety.

  • Sertraline (Zoloft)
  • Fluoxetine (Prozac, Sarafem, and Prozac Weekly)
  • Paroxetine (Paxil, Pexeva, and Paxil CR)

Specialists

Clinical psychologist: Treats mental disorders primarily with talk therapy.
Psychiatrist: Treats mental disorders primarily with medications.

Consult a doctor for medical advice
Note: The information you see describes what usually happens with a medical condition, but doesn’t apply to everyone. This information isn’t medical advice, so make sure to contact a healthcare provider if you have a medical problem. If you think you may have a medical emergency, call your doctor or a emergency number immediately.

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