Mental Illness: Facts about Post–Traumatic Stress Disorders

Updated August 5, 2020 | Infoplease Staff

Facts about Post–Traumatic Stress Disorders

Source: National Institute of Mental Health

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Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)

Post-traumatic stress disorder develops after a terrifying ordeal that involved physical harm or the threat of physical harm. The person who develops PTSD may have been the one who was harmed, the harm may have happened to a loved one, or the person may have witnessed a harmful event that happened to loved ones or strangers.

PTSD was first brought to public attention in relation to war veterans, but it can result from a variety of traumatic incidents, such as mugging, rape, torture, being kidnapped or held captive, child abuse, car accidents, train wrecks, plane crashes, bombings, or natural disasters such as floods or earthquakes.

People with PTSD may startle easily, become emotionally numb (especially in relation to people with whom they used to be close), lose interest in things they used to enjoy, have trouble feeling affectionate, be irritable, become more aggressive, or even become violent. They avoid situations that remind them of the original incident, and anniversaries of the incident are often very difficult.

Most people with PTSD repeatedly relive the trauma in their thoughts during the day and in nightmares when they sleep. These are called flashbacks. Flashbacks may consist of images, sounds, smells, or feelings, and are often triggered by ordinary occurrences, such as a door slamming or a car backfiring on the street. A person having a flashback may lose touch with reality and believe that the traumatic incident is happening all over again.

  • PTSD affects about 7.7 million American adults.
  • PTSD can develop at any age, including childhood.
  • PTSD is more likely to occur in women than in men.
  • Not every traumatized person develops full-blown or even minor PTSD. Symptoms usually begin within 3 months of the incident but occasionally emerge years afterward. They must last more than a month to be considered PTSD.
  • Some people recover within 6 months while others have symptoms that last much longer. In some people, the condition becomes chronic.
  • About 30% of men and women who have spent time in war zones experience PTSD.
  • Depression, alcohol, or other substance abuse, or another anxiety disorder often accompany PTSD.

Certain kinds of medication and certain kinds of psychotherapy usually treat the symptoms of PTSD very effectively.

Mental illness at a glance:

Introduction | Depression | Bipolar Illness | Suicide | Schizophrenia | Anxiety Disorders | Panic Disorder | Obsessive–Compulsive Disorder | Post–Traumatic Stress Disorder | Social Phobia | Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder

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