When people witness or experience an event or events that involve actual or threatened death or serious injury, or threat to the physical integrity of themselves or others, they are at risk to develop post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). PTSD results from traumas as wide ranging as sexual abuse to car accidents to natural disasters, war or workplace accidents. In other words, any person is a potential victim of PTSD.
The symptoms that adults experience may vary:
• Flashbacks or nightmares
• Avoiding something that reminds them of the situation or setting
• “Hyper-arousal”–extra sensitive, aware and alert to danger
For a few people, the symptoms become so severe they cannot take care of themselves. Children may show symptoms like repetitive play or physical problems such as stomach aches and headaches.
Just as the symptoms differ, so does the onset of PTSD. While symptoms typically appear within three months of the traumatic event, it can be many months or even years later that people begin to have problems.
The good news is that PTSD can be treated. If someone you know experienced a trauma, encourage them to get help dealing with the event. The sooner they talk about it and work on it, the better off they will be and the less likely they are to experience PTSD.