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Health & Safety

The Trauma Page

Post-Traumatic Stress VictimsPost-Traumatic Stress Disorder is a serious anxiety disorder that arises in the aftermath of a severely traumatic event that posed or caused major physical harm to the sufferer. It is a psychological affliction common to combat veterans, survivors of disaster, and those who were victimized by rape or other crime. PTSD is marked by persistent and disturbing events in which the victim re-experiences the trauma, such as nightmares and flashbacks. These events are accompanied by other symptoms like difficulty falling asleep, persistent anger, increased sensitivity to and perception of threats, and problems with social relationships. PTSD can impair normal function at work and in the home, and because it happens in conjunction with conscientious avoidance of the traumatic event, it tends to improve only with therapy.

Diagnosing PTSD

PTSD is a relatively new diagnosis that has only been recognized in its current form since the 1980s. However, experts agree that PTSD as it is known today is associated with threatening or deadly events that are personally experienced, personally witnessed, or heard about afflicting close associates. Whenever a person is exposed to a severely threatening event in one of these ways, PTSD may occur. Also important to the diagnosis of PTSD is the perception of re-experience in one form or another along with concern that the event or a similar event may reoccur. Trained medical professionals can detect other signs of the disorder, including neurological signs that require advanced equipment to measure. With prolonged suffering, PTSD patients exhibit physiological hyper-arousal that contributes to symptoms like accelerated heartbeat, cold sweat, shortness of breath, and "jumpiness." All of these factors may contribute to a diagnosis of post-traumatic stress disorder.

  • PTSD Articles at Gifts From Within: A variety of informative articles and other resources for PTSD survivors and the caregivers of PTSD patients.
  • PTSD Factsheet: Accessible overview on the subject, including information for self-care and for assisting others with their PTSD treatment.
  • PTSD and Disassociation Resources: Education and advocacy seeking to address the needs of PTSD survivors, supporters, and medical professionals who help treat PTSD.
  • PTSD at CIMIT: Information on ongoing research by the Center for Integration of Medicine and Innovative Technology aimed at improving PTSD diagnosis through the implementation of new technologies.
  • International Society for Traumatic Stress Studies: Information from this major research group, which sponsors the Journal of Traumatic Stress and conducts research into related phenomena, including PTSD.
  • European Society for Traumatic Stress Studies: European counterpart of the above organization, with similar research scope and goals.

Medications and Treatment

Treatment for PTSD often involves psychotherapy in which the patient is gradually induced to confront and work through feelings related to the traumatic event in a safe setting. Psychotherapy is an important part of any PTSD treatment, as it is generally agreed the patient must overcome any avoidance toward the event that spurred the disorder. Depending on the patient's individual needs, treatment may come in the form of couples' therapy, group therapy, or a one-on-one environment. Several psychiatric medications are also helpful in managing PTSD over the course of treatment. Many drugs involved in PTSD treatment are selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors, the same class of antidepressant drugs used in the treatment of other anxiety disorders and major depression. PTSD treatment is often a long-term process, but with time, patients can recover from the disorder and live full, happy, productive lives.


PTSD is one of the most widely researched topics in mental health. The ongoing return of combat veterans to civilian life in the United States and elsewhere makes this research particularly pressing, but veterans are by no means the only people who at risk for developing PTSD. Research is conducted in a variety of fields and uses data from a wide range of PTSD patients in the effort to understand and control this potentially debilitating condition. Some recent research is included below.

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