Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)
Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is a real disorder that develops when a person has experienced or witnessed a scary, shocking, terrifying, or dangerous event. These stressful or traumatic events usually involve a situation where someone’s life has been threatened or severe injury has occurred. Children and adults with PTSD may feel anxious or stressed even when they are not in present danger.
You can get PTSD after living through or seeing a traumatic event, such as war, a natural disaster, sexual assault, physical abuse, or a bad accident. PTSD makes you feel stressed and afraid after the danger is over. It affects your life and the people around you.
PTSD starts at different times for different people. Signs of PTSD may start soon after a frightening event and then continue. Other people develop new or more severe signs months or even years later. PTSD is often related to the seriousness of the trauma, whether the trauma was repeated or not, what the individual’s proximity to the trauma was, and what their relationship is with the victim or perpetrator of the trauma.
To be considered for PTSD, signs and symptoms must last more than a month and be severe enough to interfere with school, work, or relationships. PTSD can happen to anyone, even children.
Signs & Symptoms
Symptoms of PTSD may last months to years. PTSD symptoms may include:
- Flashbacks, or feeling like the event is happening again
- Trouble sleeping or nightmares
- Feeling alone or detached from others
- Losing interest in activities
- Having angry outbursts or other extreme reactions
- Feeling worried, guilty, or sad
- Frightening thoughts
- Having trouble concentrating
- Having physical pain like headaches or stomach aches
- Avoidance of memories, thoughts, or feelings about what closely associated with traumatic events
- Problems remembering
- Negative beliefs about themselves or others
- Feeling very vigilant
- Startling easily
Symptoms of anxiety, depression, and substance use also are seen with people who have PTSD.
Testing for PTSD
According to the National Institute of Mental Health, a doctor who has experience helping people with mental illnesses, such as a psychiatrist or psychologist, can diagnose PTSD.
There are several ways someone can manage PTSD. Talking to a specially trained doctor or counselor helps many people with PTSD. This is called talk therapy. Medicines can help you feel less afraid, tense, and depressed. It might take a few weeks for them to work.
Learn how to talk about mental health to help you speak to a loved one who you may think is experiencing any mental health concerns.
- If you or someone you know is struggling or in crisis, help is available. Call or text 988 or chat 988lifeline.org.
- To learn how to get support for mental health, drug, and alcohol issues, visit FindSupport.gov.
- To locate treatment facilities or providers, visit FindTreatment.gov or call SAMHSA’s National Helpline at 800-662-HELP (4357).
- PTSD Treatment Basics
- Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder - American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry (AACAP)
- Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder - American Psychological Association (APA)
- National Center for PTSD
- PTSD and The Family
- Tips for Survivors of a Disaster or Other Traumatic Event: Coping with Retraumatization
- National Library of Medicine: Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder
- National Institute of Mental Health: Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder
- NAMI: Posttraumatic Stress Disorder