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What are causes and symptoms of PTSD?

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Traumatic experiences such as accidents, rape, illness, war and childbirth can trigger post-traumatic stress disorder, or PTSD, and manifest as hypervigilance, reliving the event, insomnia, psychological numbing and avoidance behaviors, according to WebMD. Young children may display developmentally regressive behavior in areas such as toilet training or speech.

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PTSD can occur after a natural disaster such as an earthquake, hurricane, tornado or flood, states WebMD. PTSD develops in a higher proportion of rape cases than in any other traumatic event. Individuals who experience heart attacks or life-threatening illnesses often develop PTSD due to feelings of helplessness and hopelessness. Surgical patients who regain partial consciousness while under general anesthesia can develop PTSD, as can new mothers who undergo difficult childbirth. The risk of developing PTSD is increased if exposure to trauma occurs repeatedly or over long periods of time.

PTSD is diagnosed only in cases in which an individual either physically witnessed or personally experienced a direct risk of sexual violation, serious injury or death, explains WebMD. Clearly defined symptoms include recurring, disturbing dreams of the trauma, flashbacks and hyperarousal, or startling easily. Often a constant state of insecurity and preoccupation with possible environmental threats are shown. Agitation may increase, as well as detached emotions, inability to relate to others, dissociation and a loss of interest in life. Often physical symptoms, such as irritable bowels and headaches, are experienced in PTSD. In severe cases, those affected may be unable to work, parent or maintain interpersonal relationships.

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