What is post-traumatic stress disorder, or PTSD?
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According to the National Institutes of Health, National Institute of Mental Health website, some people develop post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) after experiencing a shocking, scary, or dangerous event.
It is natural to feel afraid during and after a traumatic situation. Fear is a part of the body’s normal “fight-or-flight” response, which helps us avoid or respond to potential danger. People may experience a range of reactions after trauma, and most will recover from their symptoms over time. Those who continue to experience symptoms may be diagnosed with PTSD.
Who develops PTSD?
Anyone can develop PTSD at any age. This includes combat veterans as well as people who have experienced or witnessed a physical or sexual assault, abuse, an accident, a disaster, a terror attack, or other serious events. People who have PTSD may feel stressed or frightened, even when they are no longer in danger.
Not everyone with PTSD has been through a dangerous event. In some cases, learning that a relative or close friend experienced trauma can cause PTSD.
What are the symptoms of PTSD?
Symptoms of PTSD usually begin within 3 months of the traumatic incident, but they sometimes emerge later. To meet the criteria for PTSD, symptoms must last longer than 1 month, and they must be severe enough to interfere with aspects of daily life, such as relationships or work. The symptoms also must be unrelated to medication, substance use, or other illness.
The course of the illness varies: Although some people recover within 6 months, others have symptoms that last for a year or longer. People with PTSD often have co-occurring conditions, such as depression, substance use, or one or more anxiety disorders.
After a dangerous event, it is natural to have some symptoms or even to feel detached from the experience, as though you are observing things rather than experiencing them. A health care provider—such as a psychiatrist, psychologist, or clinical social worker—who has experience helping people with mental illnesses can determine whether symptoms meet the criteria for PTSD.
Where can I find more information on PTSD?
To find out more information, please visit the National Institute of Mental Health website by clicking the link below.
U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, National Institutes of Health, National Institute of Mental Health. (Updated 2021). NIH Publication No. 20-MH-8124. Revised 2020
Retrieved from https://www.nimh.nih.gov/health/publications/post-traumatic-stress-disorder-ptsd