Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD, is a U.S. board-certified Anatomic Pathologist with subspecialty training in the fields of Experimental and Molecular Pathology. Dr. Stöppler's educational background includes a BA with Highest Distinction from the University of Virginia and an MD from the University of North Carolina. She completed residency training in Anatomic Pathology at Georgetown University followed by subspecialty fellowship training in molecular diagnostics and experimental pathology.
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
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 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.
nearly 8 million American adults, according to the National Mental Health
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.