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Posttraumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)

What is PTSD?

Posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is a psychiatric disorder that can result from experiencing or witnessing a traumatic event, set of circumstances, or series of events. PTSD can affect someone’s physical, mental, spiritual, and social well-being.

Some examples of events that can cause PTSD include:

  • serious accidents
  • natural disasters
  • war/combat
  • terrorist acts
  • historical trauma
  • rape/sexual assault
  • bullying
  • intimate partner violence

Those with PTSD experience disturbing and intense thoughts that relate to their experience and last long after the traumatic event has ceased. Some individuals may relive the trauma through nightmares or flashbacks, which may cause them to detach from others or feel fear, sadness, or anger.

There are four categories of PTSD symptoms:

  • avoidance
  • intrusion
  • alterations in reactivity and arousal
  • alterations in mood and cognition

How does PTSD affect a person's health?

PTSD directly impacts a person’s well-being. It is twice as common in women than in men, and certain ethnic groups, including African Americans, U.S. Latinos, and Native Americans, also experience higher rates of PTSD.

While many people who experience a traumatic event may experience the symptoms of PTSD immediately following it, a PTSD diagnosis only results when the symptoms last more than a month and cause significant distress or challenges in the individual’s ability to function daily.

Treatment for PTSD may include a combination of medication and psychotherapy in a psychiatric hospital or other healthcare facility.