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Post-traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)

Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) Overview

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According to the American Psychological Association, posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is

    "an anxiety disorder that can develop after exposure to a terrifying event or ordeal in which grave physical harm occurred or was threatened. Traumatic events that may trigger PTSD include violent personal assaults, natural or human-caused disasters, such as terrorist attacks, motor vehicle accidents, rape, physical and sexual abuse, and other crimes, or military combat."

PTSD is a problem in which your brain continues to react with nervousness after you have had a horrific trauma even though the original trauma is over. Our brains can react by staying in "overdrive" and being hyperalert to the next possible trauma. Sometimes you might continue to "remember" the trauma by having "flashbacks" about the event or nightmares even though the trauma is in the past. After a traumatic event, we can also become "numb" and shut down our feelings and try to avoid situations that might cause us to remember the trauma.


  • PTSD is somewhat common. In the United States, 60% of men and 50% of women experience a traumatic event during their lifetimes. The diagnosis of PTSD was developed by studying soldiers from war, and it was originally called "shell shock syndrome."
  • You can also get PTSD by being near a trauma or witnessing it. Professionals who are exposed to trauma in their daily work can also develop PTSD.
  • PTSD can also be caused by more long-term trauma such as sexual abuse of children or having a serious medical illness as a child or adult.
  • It affects nearly 8 million American adults, according to the National Mental Health Association
  • The National Center for PTSD tells us how common PTSD is among civilians and soldiers:
    • The rate is highest for soldiers. For soldiers who fought in the Iraq war in 2008, the RAND Corporation found that the prevalence of current PTSD was 13.8%.
    • The NCS-R estimated the lifetime prevalence of PTSD among adult Americans to be 6.8% . The lifetime prevalence of PTSD among men was 3.6% and among women was 9.7%. Women (10.4%) were more than twice as likely as men (5%) to have PTSD at some point in their lives.
  • The National Survey of Adolescents, which included a household probability sample of 4,023 adolescents between the ages of 12 and 17, found that using accepted diagnostic criteria for PTSD, the six-month prevalence was estimated to be 3.7% for boys and 6.3% for girls.
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Read What Your Physician is Reading on Medscape

Posttraumatic Stress Disorder »

The formal diagnosis of posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD)was not introduced into the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders until its third publication in 1980.

Read More on Medscape Reference »

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