Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder - Topic Overview
How does PTSD develop?
All people with PTSD have
personally experienced—or have experienced through others—a traumatic event that caused them to fear for their lives, see
horrible things, and feel helpless. Strong emotions caused by the event create
changes in the brain that may result in PTSD.3
Many people who go through a traumatic event don't get PTSD. It isn't
clear why some people develop PTSD and others don't. How likely you are to get
PTSD depends on many things. These include:
- How intense the trauma was.
you lost a loved one or were hurt.
- How close you were to the
- How strong your reaction was.
- How much you felt
in control of events.
- How much help and support you got after the
PTSD symptoms usually start soon after the traumatic
event, but they may not happen until months or years later. They also may come
and go over many years. About half of people who develop PTSD get
better at some time. But other people who
develop PTSD always will have some symptoms.4
If you have symptoms of PTSD, counseling can help you cope. Your symptoms
don't have to interfere with your everyday activities, work, and relationships.
It is never too late to get professional help or other forms of support that
can help you manage the symptoms of PTSD.
anniversaries of the event can make symptoms worse.
How is PTSD treated?
The most effective treatments
for PTSD are:5, 6
- Counseling, which can help you understand your thoughts
and learn ways to cope with your feelings. This can help you feel more in
control and get you back to the activities in your life. A type of counseling
called cognitive-behavioral therapy has been shown to be the most effective
form of counseling for PTSD.1, 2
- Antidepressant medicines,
especially selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs). These can help you
feel less sad and worried. SSRIs include fluoxetine (such
as Prozac), paroxetine (Paxil), and sertraline (Zoloft).
You may need to try different types of treatment before
finding the one that helps you. Your doctor will help you with this. These
treatments may include other types of medicines and other forms of counseling,
group counseling. If you have other problems along
with PTSD, such as overuse of alcohol or drugs, you may need treatment for
Treatment can help you feel more in control of your
emotions, have fewer symptoms, and enjoy life again.
One Man's Story:
"I can't turn my brain off.
Sometimes I stay up all night. The bad part is not staying up, but what's going
through my head. I can't stop it."—Marvin
Read more about Marvin.