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When a person experiences a very traumatic event, such as during military service or during accidents like a plane crash, he or she may experience significant psychological distress. Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is a condition that affects the emotions and security of that person and is detrimental to the way that person interacts with the world. Signs of PTSD trauma include flashbacks to the event, emotional detachment and an inability to relax.
Not all of the symptoms need to be present for a person to have a diagnosis of PTSD trauma. In addition, not all people who go through extreme trauma develop PTSD. Commonly, though, the signs of the condition show themselves in changes in emotional state, sleep patterns or a withdrawal from normal social interactions.
Emotional changes that a person suffering from PTSD trauma may experience include a lessening of emotional intensity, which may be a survival strategy to avoid having to feel strongly either way. The person may also become less interactive with other people, and avoid normal social situations. As well as feeling flat, or depressed, the person may also be abnormally alert, if the patient is unable to put the fear of the trauma behind him or her.
Flashbacks to the traumatic event are a characteristic feature of PTSD. These involve a vivid remembrance of the occurrence which may be triggered by certain items or places associated with the event. The affected person may also deliberately avoid these triggers, such as driving in a car, or looking at a person who was involved. Stressful memories can also play a role in the person's dreams, which can result in insomnia or tiredness during the day.
If a person who has experienced a very stressful event begins to use drugs or alcohol more, this can also be a sign of PTSD trauma. In addition to the mental and psychological symptoms, the condition can also produce physical symptoms. These include shaking, headaches and a pain in the stomach. Kids are especially likely to display physical symptoms, and they also tend to make reenactments of the event when suffering from PTSD.
Professional psychiatric assessment is usually necessary to diagnose PTSD trauma, and a person may have to go through several screening stages in order to receive the correct diagnosis. The first screen may be a simple questionnaire, which may then be followed by an interview by a professional if necessary. PTSD is treatable with psychological therapy sessions or medication, and the passage of time may also help reduce symptoms.