Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is a mental health condition that's triggered by a terrifying event — either experiencing it or witnessing it. The risk for developing PTSD after a traumatic event varies by type and is highest after a sexual assault, particularly rape. Men are more likely to experience a traumatic event, but women are more likely to experience the kind of high-impact traumatic event that can lead to PTSD, such as interpersonal violence and sexual assault.
There is a lot of research into risk factors and resilience factors in developing PTSD after a traumatic event. Childhood trauma, chronic adversity, and family stressors increase your risk of PTSD, along with having little or no social help after the event. People who seek out help and have positive coping strategies to deal with the traumatic event are at lower risk for developing PTSD.
Symptoms of PTSD fall into 4 categories: re-experiencing symptoms (flashbacks, bad dreams, intrusive thoughts), avoidance symptoms (staying away from things associated with the event or avoiding talking about it), arousal and reactivity symptoms (constantly feeling "on edge", angry outbursts, being easily startled, trouble sleeping), and cognition and mood symptoms (negative thoughts, distorted thinking, losing interest in enjoyable activities). Children may experience additional symptoms such as wetting the bed, forgetting how to talk, and acting out the scary situation during play.
Experiencing PTSD does not mean that you are weak or have poor character. It is a serious mental illness which can affect your ability to navigate daily life as well as your relationships with your loved ones. Treatment focuses mainly on talk therapy and sometimes medication.
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