Post-traumatic stress disorder is caused by experiencing or being a witness to a traumatic event that poses a threat of death or injury. Many events can cause PTSD. They include: military combat, violent physical assault (i.e., sexual assault, childhood sexual abuse, domestic violence), being kidnapped or taken hostage, natural or manmade disasters, car accidents, and being diagnosed with a terminal or terrifying illness (or having a child diagnosed with terminal or terrifying illness). Children may develop PTSD after inappropriate sexual experiences even if there is not a threat of death or injury.
It is still not understood why some individuals develop PTSD after a seemingly minor trauma while others exposed to a major traumatic event do not. It appears that the elderly and the very young are more vulnerable, as are those with a lack of social support. Also, individuals with other anxiety disorders, depression, some personality disorders, and those with a history of childhood sexual and/or physical abuse are more likely to get PTSD after a traumatic event.
EMDR and Cognitive Behavioral Therapy have both been shown to be effective treatments for post-traumatic stress disorder. For more information: National Center for PTSD at www.ncptsd.com; Department of Veteran Affairs at www.ncptsd.com.
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