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What is Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)?

For some people, frightening memories of a terrible event can resurface months or even years after the event. In reliving the event, people become fearful and can't cope with daily life. Mental health experts call this post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Experiencing anxiety can be a major part of this disorder.

One of the biggest myths about PTSD is that it most often affects war veterans. In truth, women are most at risk, especially those who have experienced violence, such as rape, or domestic abuse as children or adults.

Others who are more likely to get PTSD include:

  • Children who are neglected or abused

  • Survivors of bad accidents, fires, or natural disasters

  • Emergency response workers, such as police, firefighters, and medical professionals

  • Victims or veterans of war

Telltale symptoms

People with PTSD feel anxious and hyperalert, like their life is out of control. They know something is wrong, but they often don't link what they're feeling now to a traumatic event in their past. To try to feel safe, they withdraw emotionally from others.

Other signs of PTSD include:

  • Frequent nightmares, flashbacks, or other vivid memories of the event

  • Being unable to recall parts of the event

  • Avoiding any reminders of the event, including people, places, thoughts, or activities

  • Always feeling on guard or on edge

  • Problem sleeping

The most helpful treatment for PTSD is professional counseling and medicine. People with this condition tend to cut themselves off from others. Family members can play a vital role in helping victims to get help. With treatment, people can feel better very quickly. Talking with a family healthcare provider or mental health professional is a good place to start.

For more information, visit the National Center for PTSD website. This is part of the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs.



Online Medical Reviewer: Ballas, Paul, DO
Online Medical Reviewer: Nelson, Gail A., MS, APRN, BC
Date Last Reviewed: 12/1/2016
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