What it is: A psychiatric disorder that can develop after a traumatic experience, such as natural disaster, rape or combat.
Symptoms: Flashbacks or unwanted memories; avoiding or numbing emotions (often with alcohol and drugs); and being "on guard" for constant danger.
Common reactions to trauma: Feeling jumpy and being easily startled, headaches, sweating when thinking of the war, easily upset, edginess, sadness, feeling guilt, abandonment, fear, irritability, anger, feeling hopeless about the future. Many people experience the reactions short-term after a trauma. If the symptoms continue long after, they could be a sign of PTSD.
Treatment: Counseling, antidepressants and other medications.
Coping skills: Avoid alcohol and drugs; talk about the problem; consider a support group; break the cycle (if you feel anxious, take a brisk walk or try a new activity).
Getting help: State veterans hot line: 1-888-546-5838, for referrals, crisis intervention and psychological counseling.
VA Health Benefits Service Center: 1-877-222-8387.
National Center for PTSD: www.ncptsd.va.gov.
Sources: National Center for PTSD; state of Minnesota; Mayo Clinic