Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)

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What is Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder?  

Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) is a mental health condition that some individuals develop after exposure to a traumatic event. Any intensely distressing experience might qualify as traumatic, but common traumatic events range from upsetting events like an accident or the loss of a loved one to more extreme events, such as rape, war, or natural disaster. In some cases, PTSD can also be caused by hearing about a traumatic event that a loved one has undergone, rather than experience such an event directly.

Not everyone who experiences a traumatic event will develop PTSD. It’s normal to experience intense fear, anxiety, and sadness during and after such an experience, and for some people, these feelings subside on their own over time. But for many, living through such experiences can lead to mental health challenges that interfere with day-to-day life.


Prevalence of PTSD

The Anxiety and Depression Association of America reports that 7.7 million Americans ages 18 and older have PTSD. Furthermore, the same organization notes that 67% of people who are exposed to mass violence develop PTSD, which is a higher rate than those who develop the condition in response to other traumas such as natural disasters.  

Veterans may be at particularly high risk for developing PTSD, with the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration reporting that 18.5% of returning veterans report symptoms of PTSD or depression.

The American Psychological Association also notes that women are about twice as likely as men to develop PTSD, and that they often wait longer to seek help managing their symptoms.

Anyone who has experienced a traumatic event may develop PTSD. Examples include – but are far from limited to – first responders, veterans, individuals who have gone through physical or sexual assault or abuse, and women who have experienced a traumatic childbirth.

Causes of PTSD

Scientists do not yet know exactly why some people develop PTSD and others do not, but experiencing symptoms of PTSD is never a sign of weakness or failure.

Symptoms of PTSD

Symptoms of PTSD vary widely, but clinical diagnosis requires the presence of symptoms from each of the following categories. For an acute trauma reaction to become clinical PTSD, symptoms must persist for one month or more.

Symptoms related to negative changes in thought or mood, which can include any of the following, among others:

Some people also experience physical symptoms including headaches, digestive issues, and/or changes in eating or sleeping habits.

Types of PTSD

Again, not everyone who experiences a traumatic event will develop PTSD. However, some common variations on PTSD and its causes include:

What to do if you’re experiencing symptoms of PTSD

If you’re struggling with PTSD, you have a variety of options. These include:

How to find a therapist for PTSD

A variety of treatment models can be helpful for challenges related to trauma. A few of the most common are as follows:

Find therapists specializing in PTSD near you

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