PTSD Affects People from All Walks of Life | Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center
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Understanding, Therapy Can Benefit Those Battling Disorder 


Approximately one in 11 people will be diagnosed with posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) during their lifetime according to estimates from the American Psychiatric Association. The condition annually affects approximately 3.5 percent of U.S. adults every year, and women are twice as likely as men to develop PTSD.

Sarah Mallard Wakefield, M.D., chair of the Department of Psychiatry at the Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center School of Medicine, said PTSD develops in the sympathetic nervous system, a part of the body’s autonomic, or automatic nervous system.

The sympathetic nervous system is in charge of what we commonly call the fight-or-flight response. The other component of the autonomic nervous system, the parasympathetic, is known as the rest and digest system because it is most active when we are calm. The sympathetic nervous system can help prepare and react during dangerous situations or when we are participating in sports or other strenuous activities and need more oxygen to our muscles. At its core, Wakefield said, PTSD is an over-activation of the sympathetic nervous system triggered by a past trauma, sending the body into a fight-or-flight response when it is not needed.



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