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PTSD Defined

Post-traumatic stress disorder, commonly called PTSD, is a condition where memories of traumatic events are re-lived after the fact. For military personnel, the horrors of war are re-experienced and continue to affect a person after they return home. For civilians, PTSD can develop after their safety or life has been threatened, or after experiencing or seeing a particularly traumatic event, such as a natural disaster, assault, or a severe car accident. People with PTSD can have difficulty coping with and getting over traumatic events, and often feel the effects for months or years afterward.

Whether a person develops PTSD depends partly on how severe and intense the trauma was, how long it lasted, and their history of previous traumatic events. People who have anxiety, depression or other mental disorders are more likely to develop PTSD.

It’s important to know that PTSD and traumatic brain injury, or TBI, are often confused because the symptoms frequently overlap. Those shared symptoms can include:

  • difficulty concentrating,
  • memory problems,
  • difficulty sleeping, and
  • irritability

Symptoms seen with TBI, but not found with  PTSD can include:

  • headaches,
  • nausea,
  • dizziness, and
  • balance problems

A person with PTSD may have nightmares and anxiety that get worse. These symptoms occur less frequently with TBI.

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