Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is a mental health issue that may develop after a traumatic event. It causes negative, anxious emotions. Some people with PTSD relive the event over and over. Others avoid any reminders of it. PTSD interferes with life, work and relationships. But, medication and counseling can help, even years later.
Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is a mental health issue that can develop after a distressing event. The event may be dangerous, life-threatening, shocking or very scary. Examples include:
The traumatic event may have happened to you, or you may have seen it happen to someone else.
It’s normal to feel upset after something like that happening. You may have trouble sleeping, eating or doing things you enjoy for a little while. But with PTSD, symptoms last longer than a few months and interfere with your life.
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At least half the people in the United States have experienced a traumatic event. Among this group, 10% of men and 20% of women develop PTSD. Women experience neglect or abuse during childhood more often than men. They also experience sexual assault and domestic violence more often. Women tend to experience trauma differently than men, too.
There’s no way to predict who will develop PTSD from a traumatic event. However, PTSD is more common in people who have experienced:
A traumatic event causes PTSD. But, scientists aren’t sure why some people get PTSD and others don’t.
PTSD symptoms vary from person to person. Still, everyone with PTSD experiences one or more of the following:
PTSD can lead to other issues with your health and life, such as:
Children with PTSD may:
There’s no scan or blood test for PTSD. If you’ve experienced a traumatic event and are having symptoms of PTSD, talk to a healthcare provider.
The healthcare provider can make the diagnosis based on a conversation about your symptoms. To be considered PTSD, symptoms must last more than a month and interfere with your life.
The most effective treatment for PTSD combines medication and trauma-focused therapy.
Some medications can help your body produce more substances that manage stress and emotions. They fall into two broad categories:
Trauma-focused therapy examines the event and its meaning. It can be done a few different ways:
Can I prevent PTSD after a traumatic event?
You can’t necessarily prevent a traumatic event. But, some studies show that certain steps may help you prevent PTSD afterward:
Without treatment, PTSD can get worse over time. But treatment can help, even if the traumatic event was many years ago. For some people, treatment can cure PTSD. For others, it can make symptoms less intense.
Your healthcare provider can help you find support groups for people with PTSD caused by a similar event. You can connect with others who understand what you’re going through.
If you think about hurting yourself or someone else, tell somebody right away. You can tell a healthcare provider, a friend or a family member.
You can also contact the Suicide and Crisis Lifeline at 988. You’re not alone. There’s always somebody who wants to help.
A note from Cleveland Clinic
PTSD is a mental health issue that lasts long after a traumatic event. It can make you feel negative and anxious. It can also cause you to re-experience the event or avoid certain things. If you have symptoms of PTSD, talk to a healthcare provider. Medication and specific kinds of counseling can help. If you feel like you might hurt yourself or someone else, seek help immediately.
Last reviewed by a Cleveland Clinic medical professional on 01/20/2021.
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