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Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)

The National Institute of Mental Health provides this information on Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), including causes, signs and symptoms, treatments, and more.

What is PTSD?

Per the National Institute of Mental Health, PTSD is a disorder that develops in some people who have experienced a shocking, scary, or dangerous event. It is natural to feel afraid during and after a traumatic situation. Fear triggers many split-second changes in the body to help defend against danger or to avoid it. This “fight-or-flight” response is a typical reaction meant to protect a person from harm. Nearly everyone will experience a range of reactions after trauma, yet most people recover from initial symptoms naturally. Those who continue to experience problems may be diagnosed with PTSD. People who have PTSD may feel stressed or frightened even when they are not in danger.

Not everyone with PTSD has been through a dangerous event. Some experiences, like the sudden, unexpected death of a loved one or other adverse experiences, can also cause PTSD.

Trauma may not look the way you’d expect.

Trauma may not look the way you’d expect. Traditional health care settings have focused on “What’s wrong with you?” rather than “What happened to you?” There are many kinds of trauma including sexual abuse, physical abuse, emotional abuse, neglect, accident or illness, and so much more. Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) was first brought to the public attention in relation to war veterans, but PTSD can result from a variety of traumatic incidents affecting more than veterans.

Anyone can develop PTSD at any age. This includes war veterans, children, and people who have been through a physical or sexual assault, abuse, accident, disaster, or many other serious events. According to the National Center for PTSD, about 7 or 8 out of every 100 people will experience PTSD at some point in their lives. Women are more likely to develop PTSD than men, and genes may make some people more likely to develop PTSD than others.

Signs and Symptoms of PTSD

Even though most people have stress reactions following a trauma, they get better in time. But, you should seek help if symptoms:


  • Last longer than three months

  • Cause you great distress

  • Disrupt your work or home life


PTSD symptoms usually start soon after the traumatic event. But for some people, they may not happen until months or years after the trauma. Symptoms may come and go over many years. So, you should keep track of your symptoms and talk to someone you trust about them.

Getting help for trauma.

The main treatments for people with PTSD are medications, psychotherapy (“talk” therapy), or both. Everyone is different, and PTSD affects people differently so a treatment that works for one person may not work for another. If you suspect that you might suffer from PTSD, take the Screening for Posttraumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) here, print out the results and share them with your health care professional.

Some resiliency factors that may reduce the risk of PTSD include:

  • Seeking out support from other people, such as friends and family

  • Finding a support group after a traumatic event

  • Learning to feel good about one’s own actions in the face of danger

  • Having a positive coping strategy, or a way of getting through the bad event and learning from it

  • Being able to act and respond effectively despite feeling fear

 

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