According to the American Psychiatric Association’s Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fourth Edition (DSM-IV), PTSD is when a person has been exposed to, or experienced a traumatic event that involves a situation where their life has been threatened or severe injury has occurred, such as being involved in an automobile accident, being a victim of physical or sexual abuse, witnessing violence in the home or community, natural disasters such as floods, earthquakes or fires, or being diagnosed with a life threatening illness. The reactions to these events may involve intense fear, helplessness, anger, sadness, horror and can be re-experienced by recurrent and distressing dreams of the event. These reactions are post, meaning after the trauma.
Individuals with PTSD may avoid situations or places that remind them of the trauma. For example, if you were involved in a car accident, you may not want to drive a car for a long time, if ever, as the introduction may trigger flashbacks of the event. Hearing police sirens or loud noises, honking cars or merely sitting in the driver’s seat may cause the individual to react in fear as a result of the previous trauma from the accident. Some individuals that have experienced repeated trauma may develop a kind of numbing to block the pain and from the trauma.