PTSD Fact Sheet
What is PTSD?
Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) is a psychiatric
disorder that develops following exposure to a life threatening event (rape,
physical assault, combat exposure), threat to one’s personal integrity, or
witnessing an event that involved death or injury to another person. It is
estimated that 7.8 percent of Americans will experience PTSD at some point in
their lives, with women twice as likely as men to have PTSD. About 5.2 million
American adults’ ages 18 to 54 have PTSD during the course of a given year. The
traumatic events that are most often associated with PTSD are rape, combat
exposure, childhood neglect, childhood physical/sexual abuse, physical attack,
and being threatened with a weapon.
What are the Symptoms of
- Re-experiencing the traumatic event
through intrusive memories, flashbacks, and/or nightmares of the event.
- Difficulty falling and/or staying asleep
- Irrational feelings/thoughts of being in
danger when there is no apparent danger
- An increase of anxiety or fear
- Difficulty concentrating or thinking
- Avoiding people, places, and/or
conversations that might remind the person of the traumatic event
- Losing interest in things he/she once
- Experiencing emotionally "numb"
- Increase in feelings of despair and
- Irritability or outbursts of anger
- Exaggerated startle response
- Hypervigilance (a constant state of
PTSD is associated with increased
likelihood of co-occurring psychiatric disorders. The following is a list of
psychiatric disorders that is most prevalent for people who have PTSD:
Alcohol/Drug Abuse and Dependency, Major Depressive Disorder, Conduct Disorder,
Generalized Anxiety Disorder, Social Phobia, and Personality
How is PTSD Treated?
There is no definitive treatment, and no
cure, but there are some treatments that are quit promising.
Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy is one method of treatment. Cognitive-Behavioral
Therapy involves reinterpreting negative cognitions that elicit highly charged
emotions. One form of Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy is Exposure Therapy which
uses careful, repeated, detailed imagining of the trauma (exposure) in a safe,
controlled context, to help the survivor face and gain control of the fear and
distress that was overwhelming in the trauma through the use of relaxation
A relatively new treatment that has shown
success at treating PTSD is Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing
(EMDR). This mode of treatment involves elements of exposure therapy and
cognitive behavioral therapy; combined with eye movements, hand taps, or sounds
that creates a bilateral stimulation of the brain.
Medication has been effective in reducing
the symptoms of PTSD. Most of the medications that are prescribed to help reduce
the symptoms of PTSD are antidepressants and anti-anxiety medication. Be aware
that each individual who suffers from PTSD may exhibit different symptoms, which
then would determine the appropriate medication.
If someone in your family is experiencing
some of the symptoms above, talk with them and encourage them to get help by
having a psychiatric evaluation done by a licensed psychiatrist or psychologist.
The family member may have difficulty talking about the tragedy because it is
too painful, therefore be patient and understanding if he/she does not want to
talk about this issue. Educate yourself about PTSD to gain an understanding of
your family member’s behavior. Begin to observe what triggers off flashbacks and
startled reactions and attempt to minimize the triggers in the home that you
have control of. Remember, being supportive and understanding can make all the
For more information refer to the follow
Coping With Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD): Dealing with
tragedy. By Carolyn Simpson and Dwain Simpson. New York: Rosen Publishing
How to Live with PTSD: The Causes and Characteristics of Posttraumatic
Stress Disorder. By Beverly J. Peterson and Richard W. Peterson. Cardiff by
the Sea, California: Consultors Incorporated, 2000.
PTSD in Children and Adolescents. By Spencer Eth. Washington: American
Psychiatric Press, 2001
Why Is Daddy Like He Is?: A Book for Kids About PTSD. By Patience
Mason. High Springs, Florida: Patience Press, 1992
Why Is Mommy Like She Is?: A Book For Kids About PTSD. By Patience
Mason. High Springs, Florida: Patience Press, 1997