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When tragic or life-threatening events such as an assault or military combat occur, those who experience trauma may develop PTSD. An anxiety disorder marked by intense fear and helplessness, PTSD is a protective response of the brain.

PTSD Symptoms

Symptoms can manifest themselves immediately following the event or weeks, months, or years later. Symptoms of PTSD can be both emotional and physical and include:

  • Reliving the event through vivid dreams or painful memories
  • Believing that the event is happening at the present time
  • Emotional numbness
  • Guilt, anxiety, or panic
  • Being overly alert or easily startled
  • Outbursts of anger
  • Difficulty sleeping


Not everyone who experiences traumatic events develops PTSD. A person's risk may depend on:

  • The response to the event at the time it occurs
  • The intensity of the memory of the event
  • Coping style, personality, or past life experiences
  • Feelings of safety and support

Suggestions for Coping

  • Encourage the person to talk about his or her thoughts and feelings about the traumatic event. A supportive network of friends, family and health professionals can make all the difference.
  • Clear up any misconceptions the person may have about the situation. This is particularly important when talking with children, who may be inclined to feel guilt.
  • Encourage the person to use effective coping strategies. Reliance on alcohol, overeating, and engaging in dangerous activities can only lead to more problems.
  • Help the person return to his or her normal daily activities. Daily routines and activities can provide comfort and emotional stability.
  • Suggest the person see a physician or check with local mental health and community resources. Professionals are trained to help victims of tragedy cope with their feelings.