Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Posttraumatic Stress Disorder - KidsHealth


A couple of months ago, a guy who'd been harassing and threatening Jake for a while pulled a gun on him as he was walking home. Luckily, the police arrived and no one was hurt, but soon after that Jake started feeling jittery and easily irritated, he had trouble sleeping and concentrating, and he couldn't stop thinking about it, even when he was trying to do something else. He even had nightmares about it.

The things Jake was going through are normal after a traumatic event. They usually run their course and go away within a few days or weeks. But for Jake and other people with posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD), things are different. When someone has PTSD, the symptoms of stress are intense and last for longer than a month.

What Is PTSD?

Posttraumatic stress disorder is a set of symptoms — feeling jittery, sleeping problems, trouble concentrating — that someone develops after they experience something harmful, terrifying, or upsetting.

Any kind of extreme stress can lead to PTSD. It often develops after a direct experience in which someone is seriously injured or threatened with injury or death. It also can happen to people who witness stressful events or learn about an unexpected or violent death or injury to a family member or close friend.

In some cases, PTSD can develop after repeated or extreme exposure to traumatic events. This can be the case with people such as policemen, firemen, and EMTs.

What Causes PTSD?

When you're in a stressful or dangerous situation, your body responds by producing hormones and chemicals as part of the "fight-or-flight" reaction (so named because that's exactly what the body is preparing itself to do — to either fight off the danger or run from it). Usually, when the danger is over, the body goes back to normal.

But when someone has PTSD, his or her stress response system doesn't switch off as it should.

Traumatic events that can cause PTSD include:

  • violent assaults, including rape
  • fire
  • physical or sexual abuse
  • acts of violence (such as school or neighborhood shootings)
  • natural or man-made disasters
  • car accidents
  • military combat (this form of PTSD is sometimes called "shell shock")
  • witnessing another person go through these kinds of traumatic events
  • being diagnosed with a life-threatening illness














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