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What is post-traumatic stress disorder?

Being witness to or a victim of a traumatic episode causes a wide range of mental and emotional effects. This condition is known as post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), which can be disabling for some people depending on the details surrounding an incident. The American Psychiatric Association explains some of the symptoms of PTSD and how this mental condition is often treated. 

PTSD can have a variety of causes. It's often associated with combat veterans, but it can occur to anyone who's experienced a traumatic event. Additionally, it can also impact a witness of a traumatic event even if no harm befell that person. PTSD can arise from violent assaults, accidents, or natural disasters. It's usually characterized by a distinct set of behaviors that make it difficult for a person to live a normal and fulfilling life.

For instance, avoidance is a common component of PTSD. Not only will people work to avoid thinking about what occurred, they may also avoid places or situations that remind them of the event. Despite this avoidance, many people still experience what are known as intrusive thoughts. These thoughts are sometimes referred to as flashbacks, during which a person might feel like he or she is actually reliving the episode all over again. Behavioral problems may include anger, irritability, depression, and anxiety. These symptoms make it difficult for a person to manage day to day and often entail professional assistance to cope. 

There are many different types of therapies that can be beneficial for people experiencing PTSD symptoms. Exposure therapy entails exposing the person to things that trigger symptoms, albeit in a controlled environment. This helps reduce the impact of triggers in the future by allowing a person to feel more in control over what happened. Cognitive therapy is also beneficial. This allows a person to develop healthy coping mechanisms in a safe and encouraging environment. When depression or anxiety is severe, a person may also be prescribed medication. 

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