Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder - Topic Overview
What is PTSD?
Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) can occur after you have been through a traumatic event.
A traumatic event is something horrible and scary that you see or that happens
to you. During this type of event, you think that your life or others' lives
are in danger. You may feel afraid or feel that you have no control over what
Anyone who has gone through a life-threatening
event can develop PTSD. These events can include:
- Military sexual trauma.
- Physical violence.
- Sexual violence, such as rape.
- Serious accidents, such as a car wreck.
disasters, such as a fire, tornado, flood, or earthquake.
After the event, you may feel scared, confused, and
angry. If these feelings don't go away or they get worse, you may have PTSD.
These symptoms may disrupt your life, making it hard to continue with your
What are the symptoms?
After going through a
traumatic event, you may:
- Feel upset by things that remind you of what
- Have nightmares, vivid memories, or flashbacks of the
event. You may feel like it's happening all over again.
places or things that remind you of what happened.
- Feel numb or
lose interest in things you used to care about.
- Feel that you are
always in danger.
- Feel anxious, jittery, or irritated.
- Have trouble sleeping or keeping your mind on one thing.
PTSD symptoms can change your behavior and how you live
your life. You may pull away from other people, work all the time, or
use drugs or alcohol. You may find it hard to be in
relationships, and you may have problems with your spouse and family. You may
depressed. Some people with PTSD also have
panic attacks, which are sudden feelings of fear or
worry that something bad is about to happen.
Children can have
PTSD too. They may have the symptoms above and symptoms that depend on how old
they are. As children get older their symptoms are more like those of
- Young children may become upset if their
parents are not close by. Or children may have trouble sleeping or suddenly have trouble with
toilet training or going to the bathroom.
- Children who are in the first few years of elementary school
(ages 6 to 9) may act out the trauma through play, drawings, or stories. They
may complain of physical problems or become more irritable or aggressive. They
also may develop fears and anxiety that don't seem to be caused by the
What can you do if you think you have PTSD?
If you think
you have PTSD, it's important to get treatment. Treatment can work, and early
treatment may help reduce long-term symptoms.1, 2
If you think you have PTSD:
- Talk to your family doctor.
to a mental health professional, such as a therapist.
- If you're a
veteran, contact your local VA hospital or Vet Center.
- Talk to a
close friend or family member. He or she may be able to support you and find
- Talk to a religious leader.
- Fill out this form(What is a PDF document?) and take it with you to the doctor.
If you have thoughts about hurting yourself or someone else, call911, 1-800-273-TALK (suicide hotline), or go to a hospital emergency room.