Health Library Explorer
A B C D E F G H I J K L M N O P Q R S T U V W X Y Z A-Z Listings Contact Us

What is Posttraumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)?   

For some people, frightening memories of a terrible event can come back months or even years after the event. In reliving the event, people become fearful and can't cope 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 most often affects war veterans. In truth, women are most at risk. This is even more likely for women who have experienced violence, such as rape. Or for women who have experienced domestic abuse as children or adults.

Others who are more likely to get PTSD include:

  • Children who are neglected or abused

  • Survivors of bad accidents, fires, or natural disasters

  • Emergency response workers, such as police, firefighters, and medical providers

  • War victims or veterans

Telltale symptoms

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

  • 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.

Online Medical Reviewer: L Renee Watson MSN RN
Online Medical Reviewer: Marianne Fraser MSN RN
Online Medical Reviewer: Paul Ballas MD
Date Last Reviewed: 3/1/2019
© 2000-2019 The StayWell Company, LLC. 800 Township Line Road, Yardley, PA 19067. All rights reserved. This information is not intended as a substitute for professional medical care. Always follow your healthcare professional's instructions.