PTSD: The Terror Continues After the Tragedy Ends [infographic]

Traumatic experiences can trigger PTSD which can have a long-term impact on a person’s health causing physical, emotional, and cognitive dysfunction. A person who has a traumatic stress event often experiences intense fear and feelings of helplessness that leave a significant mark on the brain, so future experiences can trigger similar reactions years later.

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ptsd causes and effects

Living With PTSD

Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) is a mental disorder that has negative, long-term health effects on physical, mental, and cognitive functions. It’s caused by exposure, either witnessed or experienced, to some type of traumatic stress events such as serious injury, violence, or threats of physical harm or death. While some people suffering from PTSD show little dysfunction in day-to-day functioning, others experience significant impairment in physical, emotional, and social skills. Common PTSD symptoms include:

  • Severe depression and feelings of worthlessness
  • Debilitating anxiety with increased obsession and phobias
  • Severe disassociation with episodes of amnesia
  • Extreme isolation and avoidance
  • Psychotic episodes and hallucinations
  • Problems with substance abuse

The severity and duration of exposure to a traumatic event play a big role in the severity and duration of PTSD symptoms. People who are exposed to events such as wars, bombings, mass shootings, plane crashes, violent assaults, and sudden death of loved ones are at higher risk for suffering from PTSD. The mass shootings that occurred at the Country Music Festival in Las Vegas in 2017 will likely impact the lives of many people for many years. According to the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, 28 percent of people who witness or are involved in mass shootings experience PTSD symptoms with long-term effects. In many cases, mass shootings and other traumatic events that involve mass destruction and death can cause physical and emotional impairment for a lifetime.

People who are exposed to traumatic events at an early age and people will less education are also at greater risk for developing PTSD symptoms. People with no social connections or family support systems, a family history of psychiatric disorders, and early conduct problems are at higher risk. Women are more likely to develop PTSD than men, regardless of the event and exposure level to personal injury and stress. Children can also experience PTSD with symptoms that usually surface in behavioral problems, eating disorders, sleep disturbances, and withdrawal from family and friends.