Post Traumatic Stress Disorder
- PTSD is an extreme anxiety disorder that affects one in 13 Americans at
some point in their lives.
- PTSD is the fifth most common psychiatric disorder.
- PTSD is a serious medical condition that may result after exposure to an
extremely traumatic event involving death or threatened death, serious injury,
or another physical threat. The individual's response to that event must
involve intense fear, helplessness or horror. PTSD can result from experiencing
the trauma, witnessing the trauma or even having learned about a traumatic
- Classic examples of PTSD victims include soldiers or other witnesses of
war, victims of violent crime or witnesses to it, victims of child abuse or
incest, victims of domestic violence, survivors of serious accidents, survivors
of a natural disaster (e.g. hurricane, earthquake, volcano), Holocaust survivors,
being diagnosed (or one's child being diagnosed with) with a life-threatening
illness, and rape victims. Sudden death of a loved one may also precipitate
- Rape, physical assault, or battering are the traumas that most often lead
- One study showed that about 1 in 5 people who experienced an extreme trauma
went on to develop PTSD.
- Women are twice as likely to develop PTSD than men.
- There are 3 symptom clusters (characteristic types) of PTSD:
- Re-experiencing the event by recurrent and intrusive recollections of
the event or recurrent distressing dreams/nightmares of the event. Rarely,
the individual may experience "flashbacks": dissociative states that persist
for seconds, hours, or even days during which s/he relives aspects of the
event and behaves as if the event were occurring at that moment.
- Persistent avoidance of stimuli that might remind one of the trauma,
along with feelings of numbing or detachment. Patients with these symptoms
have significantly diminished interest or participation in previously enjoyed
activities, avoidance of activities, situations or people that might remind
one of the trauma, feelings of detachment from other people, impaired ability
to experience emotions and a sense that the future is foreshortened.
- Increased anxiety or arousal that was not present before the trauma.
This includes difficulty falling or staying asleep, perhaps due to nightmares.
Patients may also have hypervigilance or an exaggerated startle response,
irritability, outbursts of anger, or difficulty concentrating or completing
- Symptoms of PTSD persist for one month or more. These symptoms affect
daily life, including the ability to work or interact socially.
- PTSD symptoms usually develop within the first three months after the trauma,
but may not appear until months or years have passed. The symptoms may persist
for years following the trauma, and in some cases, symptoms may subside only
to return years or decades later.
- PTSD is treatable with psychotherapy and medication (generally antidepressants
in the SSRI class)
- Recovery is possible.
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Created: 6/23/2001  - Donnica Moore, M.D.