Post-traumatic Stress Disorder: The Facts

Post-traumatic Stress Disorder is an anxiety disorder that can occur following the experience or witnessing of a traumatic event, including a life-threatening event or physical or sexual assault in adult or childhood. Most survivors of trauma return to normal within a few weeks, but some people continue to suffer for longer periods of time and their symptoms can worsen. These individuals may develop PTSD. (The National Center for PTSD)

Symptoms of PTSD?

Persons with PTSD generally experience three different kinds of symptoms:

  • They relive the trauma and may become upset when they encounter a reminder or think about the trauma.
  • They avoid places or people that remind them of the trauma, as well as isolate themselves from other people.
  • They often feel on guard and irritable and are easily startled.

Often people with PTSD use alcohol or other drugs to self-medicate. PTSD sufferers may also be at an increased risk for suicide.

PTSD can happen at any age, and most PTSD sufferers start seeing symptoms within three months of the traumatic event.

According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness, studies suggest that anywhere between 2 percent and 9 percent of the population has had some degree of PTSD.

(Source: The National Alliance on Mental Illness)

PTSD Treatment Options

The common methods for treating the disorder are:

(Source: The National Center for PTSD)

Where to Find Help

  • Talk to your physician.
  • Contact a therapist or counselor.
  • Contact your local mental health agency for a therapist or counselor referral.
  • Call your health insurance provider for a therapist or counselor referral.
  • Find a support group.
  • Call the VA Health Benefits Service Center toll free at 1-877-222-VETS

(Source: The National Institute of Mental Health)

Compiled by: Tanya N. Ballard, Jason Aldag -

© 2007 The Washington Post Company