What is Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder?
Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) is a mental health disorder caused by a traumatic event characterized by severe traumatic responses that last more than one month and cause clinically significant distress or impairment. Experiencing post traumatic stress after a traumatic experience isn’t unusual. As many as 75% of all people will experience trauma in their lives. In most cases, trauma symptoms begin to lessen within weeks or months, and they gradually dissipate over time as the brain processes memories and information related to the trauma.
If symptoms persist for months or years, get worse, and interfere with someone's ability to function or cope, they may have PTSD. Approximately 7% of the population will experience PTSD in their lives. While this is a relatively small percentage of those who will experience trauma, it still means that 8 million adults in America will experience PTSD in any given year.
How common is PTSD?
7-8% of people will have PTSD at some point in their lives.
11-20% of veterans who served in Operations Iraqi Freedom and Enduring Freedom have PTSD in a given year.
About 8 million adults will have PTSD in a given year.
Women are more likely than men to experience PTSD in their lives (10% compared to 4%).
Symptoms of PTSD
Symptoms of Post-traumatic stress disorder may start within one month of the traumatic event but sometimes take several months or even years to appear. While symptoms can vary over time and between different individuals, PTSD causes substantial problems in a person's functioning, such as difficulty with work or social relationships or situations.
While symptoms can vary over time and between different individuals, PTSD causes substantial problems in a person's functioning, such as difficulty with work or social relationships or situations.
PTSD symptoms are grouped into four categories: intrusive memories, avoidance, changes in cognition and mood, and changes in reactions. The American Psychiatric Association's Diagnoastic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5) requires that for a diagnosis of PTSD, a person must experience one or more intrusive symptoms, an avoidance symptom, two or more changes in cognition or mood, and two or more changes in reactions. The symptoms must last for more than one month and cause significant distress or impairment.
Repeated, distressing, and involuntary memories of the traumatic event
Distressing dreams and nightmares
Reliving the traumatic event as if it were actually happening again (flashbacks)
Severe emotional distress or physical reactions to reminders of the event
Avoiding reminders of the traumatic event including people, places, objects, and situations
Avoiding thinking or talking about what happened
Cognition and Mood
Difficulty remembering key parts of the event
Negative thoughts about oneself or others
Distorted beliefs and feelings of fear, guilt, or shame
Lost interest in activities and inability to experience positive emotions or connections
Changes in Reactions
Being easily startled or frightened
Feeling irritable or angry
Behaving recklessly or self-destructively
Always feeling tense or on guard for danger
Top Resources on PTSD
National Center for PTSD, U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs
Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, Mayo Clinic
What is Posttraumatic Stress Disorder, American Psychiatric Association
Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, U.S. National Institute on Mental Health