2.4 min readPublished On: June 18, 2024

Understanding the Basics of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)

Trauma is part of life. Sometimes we see things, hear things and experience things that are horrible. These incidents shake us, make us afraid and even give us nightmares. Over time, the memory of the incident and the fear we felt even after it was over will fade. We may never completely forget about a trauma we witnessed, but at some point we stop feeling such strong emotions associated with the incident.

Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) is what we call it when someone does not get past the strong emotional response they had to a traumatic incident. In some cases, the emotions actually intensify over time instead of fading. A sound or a smell can bring that person right back to the traumatic incident and trigger terrifying emotions.

Here are some facts about PTSD that might help you understand it a little better:

  • Anyone can develop PTSD at any age. The only prerequisite is to experience a trauma, a strong emotional response to a scary or life-threatening incident.
  • Not everyone reacts the same way to trauma. Two people could experience the same incident and one develops PTSD while the other one does not.
  • You don’t have to experience an incident or be physically injured to develop PTSD. Watching a scary incident on television or worrying about how you could have been injured can be enough.
  • Experiencing previous trauma, especially in childhood, may pre-dispose a person to develop PTSD.
  • PTSD usually develops within three months of a traumatic incident, but it may take longer. Childhood trauma can cause PTSD to develop years later.
  • The most common causes of PTSD, according to the Mayo Clinic, are combat exposure, childhood physical abuse and sexual violence.
  • According to the National Center for PTSD, six out of every 100 Americans will develop PTSD at some point in their lifetimes, and many will recover completely.

How to Recognize PTSD

It is natural to experience some emotional symptoms like nightmares or anxiety after witnessing a traumatic event. According to the National Institute of Mental Health, symptoms that last for more than a month or interfere with daily living can indicate PTSD.

PTSD symptoms may include flashbacks or nightmares, insomnia or difficulty concentrating, social isolation or negative self-image and negative emotions like fear, anger or guilt. Angry outbursts, risky and destructive behavior or loss of interest in previous hobbies can also point to PTSD.

There are several treatments available for people struggling with PTSD, from cognitive behavior therapy to eye movement desensitization and reprocessing. Don’t be afraid to reach out for help if you are struggling. If someone you know is experiencing PTSD, you can be the reassuring presence that makes that person feel safe and supported until he or she can get the professional help required to move beyond the trauma.

To learn more about PTSD, click here.

About the Author: Christine Andola

Christine Andola
With a bachelor’s degree in communication from the State University of New York, College at New Paltz, in 1990 Christine embarked on a blind journey to building a career. She moved through teaching in the inner city public schools, reporting for a weekly newspaper, writing user manuals and technical documentation at a software company, lobbying and public relations at the state level for national associations and marketing for professional services firms. Christine’s writing portfolio includes everything from newspapers to grant proposals. She has developed web content, written blogs, ghost-written professional journal articles and drafted ad copy. From technical writing to lifestyle feature pieces, Christine lives by the value of words. She enjoys learning about the people around her and sharing information in a way that resonates with readers.

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