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What is Posttraumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)?   

For some people, frightening memories of a terrible event can come back months or even years later. In reliving the event, some people become fearful. They can have problems coping with daily life. Mental health experts call this posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Having anxiety can be a major part of this disorder.

One of the biggest myths about PTSD is that it only affects war veterans. But anyone who has been through a horrific traumatic event is at risk.

People at risk for PTSD include:

  • People who have experienced violence, such as rape. Or people who have experienced intimate partner violence as children or adults.

  • Children who are neglected or abused

  • Survivors of bad accidents, fires, or natural disasters

  • Emergency response workers, such as police, firefighters, disaster-relief volunteers, and medical providers

  • War victims or veterans

Symptoms of PTSD

People with PTSD feel anxious and hyper-alert. They feel like their life is out of control. They know something is wrong. But they often don't link what they're feeling now to a traumatic event in their past. To try to feel safe, they withdraw emotionally from others.

Other signs of PTSD include:

  • Having frequent nightmares, flashbacks, or other vivid memories of the event

  • Being unable to recall parts of the event

  • Staying away from any reminders of the event, including people, places, thoughts, or activities

  • Feeling always on guard or on edge

  • Being easily startled

  • Having angry outbursts

  • Having trouble sleeping

The most helpful treatment for PTSD is professional counseling and medicine. People with this condition tend to cut themselves off from others. Family members can play a vital role in helping victims to get help. With treatment, people can feel better very quickly. Talking with a family healthcare provider or mental health provider is a good place to start.

For more information, visit the National Center for PTSD website. This is part of the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs.