Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)

Living through any traumatic event, such as a natural disaster (e.g., a hurricane or flood), physical abuse, sexual assault, war, or a severe car crash, can trigger feelings of extreme worry, helplessness, and fear. If these feelings persist, they can develop into an anxiety disorder called post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). People with PTSD find it difficult to function in their daily lives and may:

  • Experience intrusive frightening thoughts, memories, or bad dreams about the event
  • Feel intensely anxious, guilty, or depressed
  • Experience feelings of emotional numbness and distance themselves from loved ones
  • Replay the traumatic experience over and over in their minds

While not everyone exposed to a traumatic event will experience PTSD, approximately 9.2 percent of Canadians experience some of these symptoms, which may appear immediately after the traumatic experience or months, even years, later. People with PTSD may experience a loss of memory about the traumatic event or focus on it considerably. Because of the intense anxiety associated with PTSD, and the unpredictability and distressing nature of the symptoms, individuals with this disorder often experience disrupted sleep and are at risk of developing substance-related problems, difficulties in their relationships, and low moods.

PTSD is one of the most difficult mental health disorders to treat. The earlier it is recognized and treated, the more likely the individual will experience relief from her/his symptoms. Psychotherapy (e.g., Cognitive-Behavioural Therapy) and medications can offer some relief from the anxiety and depression that often emerge with PTSD, digestive disorders, and chronic pain.

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