Post-traumatic stress disorder is a condition which can develop in people who have experienced a scary and distressing event. According to the National Institute of Mental Health, most people will experience a “fight-or-flight” response during a traumatic event, but many people recover. Those who keep experiencing symptoms after the event are diagnosed with PTSD. These people may live in fear, or experience stress even when there is no evident danger.
PTSD symptoms may include re-experiencing the event in flashbacks, bad dreams, or frightening thoughts; avoiding places, people, thoughts, or feelings related to the event. Arousal and reactivity symptoms including being easily startled, feeling tense, difficulty sleeping, or having outbursts. There are many traumatic events which may cause a person to develop PTSD.
Men and women who serve in the military and experience combat may develop PTSD. According to the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, 15% of veterans who served during the Vietnam War are currently diagnosed with PTSD, but an estimated 30% of Vietnam Veterans have had PTSD in their lifetime. About 12% of Gulf War (Desert Storm) Veterans have PTSD in a given year.
These are only the reported cases—many people living with PTSD will do so in silence, and so many cases go unreported. In addition to veterans who experience PTSD, civilians who live through war can also experience PTSD. The effects of war go far beyond the battlefield, and that is evident in any people who have experienced war first-hand, be it a soldier or a civilian.
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