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What is post-traumatic stress disorder?

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Quick Answer

Mayo Clinic describes post-traumatic stress disorder as a mental health illness caused by experiencing or witnessing a terrifying event. Those suffering from the disorder experience nightmares, anxiety and uncontrolled thoughts about the event.

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Full Answer

Post-traumatic stress disorder, also known as shell shock or combat fatigue syndrome, was first identified in soldiers returning from battle, but any traumatic event that causes intense fear or pain can trigger the disorder. The condition affects individuals of all ages, and females are more likely to develop the disorder. WebMD estimates that 5.2 million Americans suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder annually.

According to Mayo Clinic, symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder include insomnia, depression and inability to concentrate. Those affected may startle easily or become angry easily. Symptoms lasting over a month and severe symptoms, such as excessive alcohol consumption, reckless behavior and suicidal ideology, require immediate treatment.

WebMD notes that treatment for post-traumatic stress disorder includes medication and psychotherapy. Exposure therapy aims to reduce anxiety and fear by encouraging an individual to vividly remember the details of the event in a safe, controlled environment, and group therapy offers him a place to discuss his emotions with others who have suffered similar events. Medications such as antidepressants, mood stabilizers and tranquilizers may be prescribed in addition to counseling.

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