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Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD): Home
This guide provides a range of resources on the topic of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.
Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) is defined as a "complex anxiety disorder that may occur when individuals experience or witness an event perceived as a threat and in which they experience fear, terror, or helplessness." PTSD is sometimes summarized as “a normal reaction to abnormal events.” It was first defined as a distinctive disorder in 1980 and was originally diagnosed in veterans of the Vietnam War.
Although the veteran population is most heavily affected by PTSD, "it is now recognized in civilian survivors of rape or other criminal assaults; natural disasters; plane crashes, train collisions, or industrial explosions; acts of terrorism; child abuse; or war." (Gale Encyclopedia of Mental Health, 3rd ed.)
Special thanks to JJ Pionke, Applied Health Sciences Librarian, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, who allowed us copy information from her Post Traumatic Stress Disorder Guide.
What are the symptoms of PTSD?
Symptoms usually begin within 3 months of a traumatic incident. For symptoms to be considered PTSD, they must last more than a month and be severe enough to interfere with functioning in relationships or work. A doctor who has experience helping people with mental illnesses can diagnose PTSD.
To be diagnosed with PTSD, an adult must have all of the following for at least one month:
At least one re-experiencing symptom
At least one avoidance symptom
At least two arousal and reactivity symptoms
At least two cognition and mood symptoms
Flashbacks -- reliving the trauma over and over, including physical symptoms like a racing heart or sweating
Staying away from places, events, or objects that are reminders of the experience
Avoiding thoughts or feelings related to the traumatic event
Arousal and reactivity symptoms:
Being easily startled
Feeling tense or "on edge"
Having difficulty sleeping and/or having angry outbursts
Cognition and mood symptoms:
Trouble remembering key features of the traumatic event
Negative thoughts about oneself or the world
Distorted feelings like guilt or blame
Loss of interest in enjoyable activities
Who is affected by PTSD?
PTSD can affect almost anyone in any age group if they experience a traumatic event or series of events. National Institute of Mental Health studies showed that in 2007:
Nearly 7.7 million adults in the United States had PTSD
3.7% of adolescent boys and 6.3% of adolescent girls had PTSD
People have a 8-10% risk of developing PTSD over their lifetime
On average, 30% of soldiers who have been in a war zone develop PTSD