Post Traumatic Stress Disorder

Stress

Webster’s dictionary defines stress as a state of mental or emotional strain or suspense; difficulty that causes worry or emotional tension.

Soldiers and Airmen who encounter stressors, or perceived threats, experience a stress response. That response includes physical, emotional, and cognitive components in both short and long-term processes. A stress response involves, among other physiologic changes, the body’s sympathetic nervous system secreting adrenalin and/or the adrenal glands secreting cortisol in an attempt to make our body or behavior more capable of dealing with threats to our well-being. The powerful effect of these hormones when prolonged can have an adverse impact on health.

Trauma

Trauma is defined as any physical damage to the body caused by violence or accident or fracture etc; an emotional wound or shock often having long-lasting effects. Trauma may be considered to be the psychological effect of severe or prolonged stress. Generally this involves experiencing or witnessing threats of death or serious injury to either self or others. What is “traumatized” in this experience is the sense of the self as safe, protected, or invulnerable. Various behavioral and emotional effects are common in response to trauma. These effects generally fall along a continuum, but may be quite severe and disruptive to daily role functioning and overall quality of life. Fortunately, they frequently remit with time and supportive interpersonal interaction. However, for some people, symptoms may persist, leading to potential problems associated with post-traumatic stress disorder, or PTSD. In such cases, professional treatment has been found to be helpful in either eliminating or reducing symptoms.

Do I Have PTSD?

A natural first question is whether the symptoms are due to PTSD, Stress symptoms are not always due to PTSD, and it is helpful to know if they are specifically the result of psychological trauma and if they are the full condition of PTSD. Such symptoms may be due to other conditions created by stressors other than trauma (for example, work or financial pressures), medical problems (such as heart conditions or diabetes), or other psychological conditions (such as depression or anxiety).

PTSD / TBI Quick Facts Sheet (PDF)