Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)
Post-traumatic stress disorder, or PTSD, is a serious potentially debilitating condition that can occur in people who have experienced or witnessed a traumatic event, such as 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. There are currently about 12 million people in the United States living with PTSD and that is only a small portion of those who have gone through a traumatic event.
It’s not unusual for people who have experienced traumatic events to have flashbacks, nightmares, or intrusive memories when something terrible happens — like the 9/11 terrorist attacks and those in cities around the world (London and Paris, for example) or the bombings at the 2013 Boston Marathon, or active combat.
Be tolerant of your nervous system: it’s having a normal reaction. Try not to get hooked on news reports, which may seem particularly compelling. Spend time with loved ones, in favorite activities or outside in nature, and avoid alcohol.
But if these symptoms persist over months or years or cause you to drop into deep depression or anxiety, it is possible you have developed PTSD. You can take a self-screening test to help you find out if your feelings and behaviors may be related to PTSD, but keep in mind that only a trained provider can diagnose PTSD.
There are treatments available that can help. Learn more below about statistics, treatments, and resources for PTSD below.
Many people experience a traumatic event at some point in their lives, the National Center for PTSD found that about 6 of every 10 men (or 60%) and 5 of every 10 women (or 50%) experience at least one trauma in their lives1. It's typical for those people to recover from that event over time, but people who develop PTSD continue to be severely depressed and anxious for months or even years following the event. And PTSD often occurs with depression, substance abuse, or other anxiety disorders. (The following statistics are based on the U.S. population):
- About 6 out of every 100 people (or 6% of the population) will have PTSD at some point in their lives
- About 12 million adults in the U.S. have PTSD during a given year. This is only a small portion of those who have gone through a trauma
- About 8 of every 100 women (or 8%) develop PTSD sometime in their lives compared with about 4 of every 100 men (or 4%).
- Women are 2x more likely to develop PTSD than men, and children can also develop PTSD
Children and Teens:
- 15% to 43% of girls and 14% to 43% of boys go through at least one trauma
- Of those children and teens who have had a trauma, 3% to 15% of girls and 1% to 6% of boys develop PTSD
PTSD does not solely affect deployed, active duty military officers. PTSD can affect any unit of special forces such as first responders, the National Guard, or police forces. These statistics are specifically of PTSD in Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans. 10.9% of non-deployed officers and 15.7% of deployed officers develop PTSD2. Access the full range of data about veterans and PTSD here.
Trauma survivors who have PTSD may have trouble with their close family relationships or friendships. Their symptoms can cause problems with trust, closeness, communication, and problem-solving, which may affect the way the survivor acts with others. In turn, the way a loved one responds to him or her affects the trauma survivor. A circular pattern may develop that could harm relationships. Read more from the National Center for PTSD.
Learn more about PTSD:
- PTSD Basics
- PTSD Symptoms
- Treatment and Facts
- Trauma - Symptoms and Treatment
- Help Your Child Manage Traumatic Events
- Community Resources/Organizations
PTSD Screening Test:
- 5-question self-screen from the National Center for PTSD
- ADAA Self-screen form
- ADAA find a therapist directory
- How to Know if You Should Talk to Your Healthcare Provider about PTSD - Infographic
- Download ADAA's PTSD Brochure
- The Aching Red: Firefighters often silently suffer from trauma and job related stress - Blog Post
- MDMA May Help Treat PTSD – but Beware of Claims that Ecstasy is a Magic Bullet - Blog Post
- How to Talk to Your Kids About Violence - Response to the Las Vegas Shootings - Blog Post
- Talking to Children and Teens After a School Shooting - Blog Post
- How to Prevent Trauma from Becoming PTSD - Blog Post
- Healing Invisible Wounds - Webinar
- Trastorno de Estrés Post-Traumático - Webinar
- PTSD: What I Should Know About Current Treatments - Webinar
- Non-Military PTSD - Webinar
- National Center for PTSD
- PTSD Foundation of America
- Veterans and Civilians Crisis Line Call 1-800-273-8255. Press 1. Text 838255
- Understanding the History of PTSD, Verywell Health 2022
- US Department of Veterans Affairs. ptsd.va.gov. PTSD: National Center for PTSD. https://www.ptsd.va.gov/
- US Department of Veteran Affairs. Publichealth.va.gov. PTSD in Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans. https://www.publichealth.va.gov/epidemiology/studies/new-generation/ptsd.asp
- Path to Better Sleep - Veteran Training (va.gov)
- Imagery Rehearsal Therapy to Treat Nightmares With PTSD (verywellmind.com)
- Kunze, A.E., Lancee, J., Morina, N. Efficacy and mechanisms of imagery rescripting and imaginal exposure for nightmares: study protocol for a randomized controlled trial. 17:469. doi:10.1186/s13063-016-1570-3
- El-Solh AA. Management of nightmares in patients with posttraumatic stress disorder: current perspectives. . 2018;10:409–420. doi:10.2147/NSS.S166089
- ERRT - ERRT - Kendall College of Arts and Sciences (utulsa.edu)
- Printz Pereira, D. M. B., Grasso, D. J., Hodgkinson, C. A., McCarthy, K., J., Wakschlag, L. S., & Briggs-Gowan, M. J. (In press). Maternal Posttraumatic Stress and FKBP5 Genotype Interact to Predict Trauma-Related Symptoms in Preschool-age Offspring. Journal of Affective Disorders. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jad.2021.05.042
- Williams, M. T., Printz, D. M. B., & DeLapp, R. C. T. (2018). Assessing racial trauma with the Trauma Symptoms of Discrimination Scale. Psychology of Violence, 8(6), 735-747. http://dx.doi.org/10.1037/vio0000212
- Williams, M. T., Ching, T. H. W., Printz, D. M. B., & Wetterneck, C. T. (2018). Assessing PTSD in ethnic and racial minorities: Trauma and racial trauma. Directions in Psychiatry, 38(3), 179-195.
- Reisman M. PTSD Treatment for Veterans: What's Working, What's New, and What's Next. P T. 2016 Oct;41(10):623-634. PMID: 27757001; PMCID: PMC5047000.