Trauma is often associated with physical injuries, but psychological trauma is an emotionally painful, shocking, stressful, and sometimes life-threatening experience. Trauma is a common experience for many adults and children. Traumatic events can include physical and sexual abuse, neglect, bullying, community-based violence, disaster, terrorism, and war.

Traumatic events often threaten our sense of safety. Although many people who experience a traumatic event will go on with their lives without lasting symptoms, others may have difficulty and experience traumatic stress reactions. Responses to trauma can be immediate or delayed and often differ in severity and cover a wide range of behaviors and reactions. Trauma and stress-related disorders are closely linked to anxiety disorders.

What are the Signs and Symptoms of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder?

Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) is a serious, potentially debilitating condition that can occur after people have experienced or witnessed a life-threatening event, such as a natural disaster, serious accident, terrorist incident, sudden death of a loved one, war, rape, or other violent personal assault. Extreme anxiety and trauma-related fear are characteristic of PTSD. Other symptoms include:

  • Re-experiencing a traumatic event through intrusive distressing recollections, flashbacks and nightmares.
  • Emotional numbness and avoidance of places, people, and activities that are reminders of the trauma.
  • Feeling cut off from others and other negative alterations in mood or ways of thinking, understanding, learning, and remembering.
  • Marked changes in arousal and reactivity, including difficulty sleeping and concentrating, feeling jumpy, easily irritated, and angered.

PTSD symptoms can begin shortly after a traumatic event, or may not appear until years after the event. These symptoms can interfere with daily tasks or cause significant problems in social or work situations and in relationships. Some people may experience PTSD simultaneously with anxiety disorders, depression, and substance use disorders.

PTSD symptoms can vary in intensity over time. Getting effective treatment after symptoms develop can be critical in reducing symptoms and improving overall daily function.

If you or a loved one is experiencing disturbing thoughts and feelings about a traumatic event that persists for more than a month, or if you’re having trouble getting your life back under control, talk to your doctor or a behavioral health specialist. Getting treatment as soon as possible can help prevent symptoms from worsening.

What are the Risk Factors for Trauma Disorders?

People of all ages can develop PTSD, however, some factors may make you more likely to develop PTSD following a traumatic event:

  • Experiencing intense or long lasting trauma.
  • Having experienced other trauma earlier in life, such as a childhood abuse.
  • Having a job that increases your risk of being exposed to traumatic events, such as military personnel and first responders.
  • Having other mental or behavioral health problems, such as anxiety or depression.
  • Having difficulty with substance use or misuse, including alcohol or other drugs.
  • Lacking a support system of family and/or friends.
  • Having a family history or mental or behavioral health conditions.

What are the Treatments for Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder?

Treatment can help individuals regain a sense of control over their lives. Most people who receive treatment for PTSD see significant improvement and enjoy a better quality of life.

Learn more about Treatments for Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder.

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