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Post Traumatic Stress Disorder

Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) is a mental health condition that can happen to you after having or seeing a traumatic event or a series of traumatic events. It’s called PTSD for short. PTSD is very common. About 7 or 8 out of 100 people will be diagnosed with PTSD at some point in their life. People who identify as women are twice as likely as people who identify as men to have PTSD. Help is available if you have PTSD.

What causes PTSD?

PTSD is caused by changes in your brain that can happen after you experience or witness a traumatic event or a series of traumatic events — or have something traumatic happen to someone close to you. Examples of PTSD causes include violence, war, natural disasters, accidents, family or relationship abuse, or sexual assault. Many people associate PTSD with military veterans, but they’re just one group of people who are more likely to experience PTSD. Not all people who experience or witness traumatic events develop PTSD.

What are the symptoms of PTSD?

You can be diagnosed with PTSD when you’ve experienced or witnessed one or more traumatic experiences and you have the following symptoms for over a month in a way that interferes with your relationships or responsibilities:

  • Reliving memories of the event(s) through flashbacks or nightmares.
  • Avoiding things that remind you of the event(s)
  • Being more on edge and alert in general. This can show up as being easily startled, being irritable or having angry outbursts, or having trouble concentrating or sleeping. This is sometimes called hyperarousal.
  • Memory or mood issues, like having trouble remembering the event(s), negative thoughts or feelings about yourself or the world, feeling isolated from friends/family, feelings of guilt or blame, or losing interest in enjoyable activities.

In teens with PTSD, acting out in destructive or risky ways is also common. In young children, bed wetting, forgetting how to talk, and being very clingy are some signs of PTSD.

PTSD usually develops within weeks or months of a traumatic event, but can also show up much later — even years — after the trauma. PTSD is different from acute stress disorder (ASD), which is when you have very serious PTSD symptoms in the days and weeks after a traumatic event that go away within a few weeks. PTSD symptoms are ongoing and can last many months or even years without treatment.

People with PTSD are more likely to have other psychological and physical health issues, like anxiety or panic attacks, substance use disorders, and depression.

There’s no PTSD test you can take to find out if you have PTSD. However, a mental health professional, like a counselor or therapist, can help you figure out if you have PTSD and what to do next.

What is PTSD treatment?

There are several different treatment options for PTSD, and different ones may work better for different people. PTSD treatment options includes:

  • Individual therapy (like talk therapy or eye movement desensitization and reprocessing therapy, also known as EMDR)
  • Group therapy
  • Medicines — usually antidepressants

It’s important to find a mental health professional, like a counselor or therapist, with experience treating PTSD. You may be able to find someone who specializes in PTSD in your area through SAMHSA, your insurance company, or through the Veteran’s Administration if you’re a veteran. Your nearest Planned Parenthood health center may also be able to refer you to a mental health professional who treats PTSD.