Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is an anxiety disorder that can occur after someone experiences a traumatic event. PTSD is preceeded by a very traumatic or life-threatening event causing intense fear, helplessness and/or horror. PTSD can result from personally experienced traumas, such as war, terrorist attacks, violent crimes, a serious accident or injury, a natural disaster or ongoing physical or sexual abuse) or from the witnessing or learning of a violent or tragic event.
While it is common to experience a brief state of anxiety or depression after such occurrences, people with PTSD continually re-experience the traumatic event; avoid individuals, thoughts, or situations associated with the event; and have symptoms of excessive emotions. It can cause flashbacks, sleep problems and nightmares, feelings of isolation, guilt, paranoia and sometimes-panic attacks. People with this disorder have these symptoms for longer than one month and cannot function as well as they do before the traumatic event. PTSD symptoms usually appear within three months of the traumatic experience; however, they sometimes occur months or even years later.
How common is PTSD?
The likelihood of developing the disorder is greater when someone is exposed to multiple traumas or traumatic events early in life, especially if the trauma is long term or repeated.