For some people, frightening memories of a terrible event can resurface months or even years after the event. In reliving the event, people become fearful and can't cope with daily life. Mental health experts call this post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). This is a type of anxiety disorder.
One of the biggest myths about PTSD is that it most often affects war veterans. In truth, women are most at risk, especially those who have experienced violence, such as rape, or domestic abuse as children or adults.
Others who are more likely to get PTSD include:
Children who are neglected or abused
Survivors of bad accidents, fires, or natural disasters
Emergency response workers, such as police, firefighters, and medical professionals
Victims or veterans of war
People with PTSD feel anxious and hyper-alert, like their life is out of control. They know something is wrong, but they often don't link what they're feeling now to a traumatic event in their past. To try to feel safe, they withdraw emotionally from others.
Other signs of PTSD include:
Frequent nightmares, flashbacks, or other vivid memories of the event
Being unable to recall parts of the event
Avoiding any reminders of the event, including people, places, thoughts, or activities
Always feeling on guard or on edge
The most helpful treatment for PTSD is professional counseling and medication. People with this condition tend to cut themselves off from others. So, family members play a vital role in helping victims to get help. With treatment, people can feel better very quickly. Talking with a family doctor or mental health professional is a good place to start.
For more information, visit the National Center for PTSD website, part of the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs.