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Post-traumatic stress disorder is a cluster of symptoms that is given to individuals who have experienced a traumatic event (motor vehicle accident, mugging, hijacking, rape) and who are experiencing a number of symptoms such as recurrent and intrusive thoughts and images relating to the traumatic event. These may take the form of nightmares or flashbacks and run through the individual's mind "like a movie". A significant amount of anxiety would tend to be experienced in reaction to these thoughts or images. Individuals often attempt to avoid the images, places, people or situations that remind them of the trauma, often out of fear that it will happen again, but sometimes also just because it triggers the memory, which is responded to with a great deal of anxiety. A number of symptoms of physiological arousal such as sleep disturbance, irritability and anger outbursts, an exaggerated startle response and difficulties with concentration are experienced. Individuals may also experience numbness and be unable to remember important parts of the trauma memory.

PTSD is a condition that is highly responsive to CBT. Psycho-education and imaginal exposure are central to treatment. Imaginal exposure is required as the memory of the trauma itself is seen as the "non dangerous stimulus" that individuals react to with the perception of threat and the fear response. As a result, exposure to the memory or anything that reminds people of the event, is done so that the memory may be processed in such a way that it is no longer responded to with fear and anxiety. Major changes in the way in which individuals think about themselves and the world are also challenged using cognitive therapy and in-vivo exposure is often also used for exposure to external triggers that remind individuals of the event.


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