Posttraumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)

What is posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD)?

Posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is a mental health condition that is triggered by a terrifying event in people who have either experienced or witnessed a natural disaster, serious accident, terrorist incident, sudden death of a loved one, war, violent personal assault such as rape, or other life-threatening events. While it is normal to have some anxiety after such an event, it usually goes away in time. But people with PTSD continue to be severely depressed and anxious for months or even years following the event. The trauma is relived through nightmares, intrusive memories, and flashbacks. These can be vivid memories that seem real. In reliving the event, people become fearful and can't cope with daily life. PTSD often occurs with depression, substance abuse, or other anxiety disorders.
Risk factors
  • Living through dangerous events and traumas
  • Getting hurt
  • Seeing another person hurt, or seeing a dead body
  • Childhood trauma
  • Lack of family or social support after the event
  • Dealing with extra stress after the event, such as loss of a loved one, pain and injury, or loss of a job or home
  • Having a history of mental illness or substance abuse
  • Personality disorder or traits including borderline personality disorder, paranoia, dependency, or antisocial tendencies
 A doctor who has experience helping people with mental illnesses, such as a psychiatrist or psychologist, can diagnose PTSD. Your doctor will likely:
  • Perform a physical exam to check for medical problems that may be causing your symptoms
  • Do a psychological evaluation that includes a discussion of your signs and symptoms and the event or events that led up to them
  • Use the criteria in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5), published by the American Psychiatric Association
The main treatments for people with PTSD are medications, psychotherapy (“talk” therapy), or both.
  • About 7 or 8 out of every 100 people will experience PTSD at some point in their lives.
  • Women are 2x as likely to develop posttraumatic stress disorder as men.
  • 7.7 million Americans ages 18 and older have PTSD.
  • 67% of people exposed to mass violence have been shown to develop PTSD, a higher rate than those exposed to natural disasters or other types of traumatic events.
posttraumatic stress syndrome (PTSD)

  • "What Is Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)?" What Is Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)? Johns Hopkins Health System, 1 Dec. 2016. Web. 14 May 2017.
  • "Children's Mental Health." Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 16 Nov. 2016. Web. 14 May 2017.
  • "Posttraumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)." Posttraumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) | Anxiety and Depression Association of America, ADAA. Anxiety and Depression Association of America, ADAA, n.d. Web. 14 May 2017.
  • "Post-traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)." Mayo Clinic. Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research, 18 Feb. 2017. Web. 14 May 2017.
  • "Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder." National Institutes of Health. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Feb. 2016. Web. 14 May 2017.


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