Watch CBSN Live

Recognizing Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder

 Five years ago, Oklahoma City was destroyed in spirit and in act with a bomb. On Wednesday's Early Show, Bryant Gumbel reported live from Oklahoma City. And last year, on April 20, the students of Columbine High were the victims of a peer shooting attack. Thursday, Jane Clayson goes to the scene to see how Littleton, Colo., is coping.

On Wednesday's edition of The Early Show, Dr. Elizabeth Carll, addressed the issue of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) in relation to those two events as well as to events in our own personal lives that are not on a national scale, such as crimes or the death of a loved one.

What Is Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder?

It's a normal reaction to an abnormal event. It could be a bombing or a disaster or a violent crime or a car accident. It's when something traumatic happens to us or even someone we know...such as an unexpected death of a loved one.

The disorder is when you experience feelings of anxiety and stress that lingers on long after the event. Everybody experiences post traumatic stress, that's normal. It becomes a disorder when the symptoms last beyond a month after the event.

What kind of experiences can cause PTSD?

It is not only brought on by war but experiences that are more common in our daily lives. At any point and time we can exposed to something that can cause post traumatic stress.

Anything that is out of the norm that can have severe consequences. A natural disaster, a rape or physical or sexual abuse. Even witnesses to traumatic events can be secondary victims. Just watching something on TV can cause symptoms. Many people suffer the effects long after the event. It depends on the context of the event. It can have very negative consequences or it may give them a sense of strength and they could go on to do something positive.

Can just seeing images from Columbine or Oklahoma City trigger PTSD?

Yes, if those people have experiences similar violence it can bring back those memories. They can occur in flashback or intrusive thoughts that we think about over and over. A more recent experience can be more powerful. Someone who's had a more severe experience and react differently as well.


Defining Symptoms

  • Intrusive thoughts and flashbacks. It's how we separate PTSD from other anxiety disorders.

Other symptoms include:
  • Irritability
  • Hypervigilance
  • Being jumpy
  • Emotional numbing
  • Depression

Diagnosis and Treatment

If the symptoms persist after a month and if interfere with a person's life, professional help such as counseling, stress management and sometimes medication in conjunction with therapy. About 20 percent of people exposed to a traumatic event develop this disorder. It's very treatable.

Gender Differences?

There is no difference in how they suffer from the disorder but women tend t talk about feelings of depression or anxiety more than men. Some men see the difficulty in coping as a sign of weakness.

Go to the National Center for PTSD Web site for information on Post-traumatic Stress Syndrome.

©MMII CBS Worldwide Inc. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed

View CBS News In
CBS News App Open
Chrome Safari Continue