Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is a serious and potentially debilitating condition that can affect a person following a traumatic event, such as a war, terrorist attack, injury or diagnosis or the unexpected death of a loved one. Here’s what you need to know about PTSD.
Who PTSD affects
Most people who experience trauma won’t develop PTSD and the long-lasting depression and anxiety that come with it. However, about seven to eight percent of people in the U.S. will develop PTSD at some point in their lives.
While anyone has the potential to get PTSD, from combat veterans and police officers to victims of crime and witnesses to accidents, you are more likely to develop PTSD if you:
- Were directly exposed to the trauma as a victim or witness
- Were seriously injured during the event
- Experienced long-lasting or severe trauma
- Believed you or a family member were in danger and felt helpless to do anything about it
- Had a severe reaction during the trauma such as crying, shaking or vomiting
You are also more likely to develop PTSD if you experienced a previous trauma, have a mental illness or lack a good support system.
Symptoms of PTSD include:
- Re-experiencing the trauma through flashbacks, bad dreams or frightening thoughts
- Avoiding situations that bring back memories of the event
- Feeling emotionally numb, guilt or worry
- An inability to remember what happened during the event
- Having symptoms of depression, such as sadness, difficulty sleeping and a loss of interest in activities that were once enjoyable
- Being anxious, tense, easily startled and angered
It’s normal to have some of these symptoms after a scary event, but if they last for more than month, become severe or interfere with work or life, you should make an appointment with your doctor as soon as possible to be evaluated. There are treatments that can help.