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What is PTSD?
• PTSD is an anxiety disorder that some people
get after seeing or living through a dangerous
• The normal “fight or flight” response is changed
so some people may feel scared or stressed,
even when the danger has passed.
What causes PTSD?
• Traumatic events in a person’s life such
• War
• Terrorist attack
• Prison
• Rape
• Domestic abuse
• Natural disaster
Signs and Symptoms of PTSD
• There are three main categories of
• Reliving the event
• Avoidance and numbing
• Arousal
Reliving the Event
• Affects day to day activities:
• Flashbacks
• Nightmares
• Reactions to an uncomfortable situation that
reminds the person of the trauma
• Distressing recurrent images, thoughts or
perceptions of the event
Avoidance and Numbing
• Avoiding reminders of the event
• Thoughts, feelings or conversations
• Activities, places or people
• Decreased interest
• Feeling detached
• Restricted emotional state
Increased arousal
• Increased physiological and mental
arousal (requires 2 or more of the following):
• Sleep difficulty
• Irritability or anger
• Impaired concentration
• Hypervigilance (increased watchfulness for any
situation that may remind the person of the
• Increased startle response
Other Symptoms
• Guilty feelings such as survivor guilt
• Agitation
• Dizziness
• Fainting
• Palpitations
• Headache
• Symptoms must be present for at least 30
days to be classified as PTSD
At least 1 re-living experience
At least 3 avoidance episodes
At least 2 arousal episodes
Other symptoms that impair daily life
• Less than 30 days is considered ASD (acute
stress disorder)
• Psychotherapy and medications are both
used as treatment for PTSD
• Desensitization
• Group therapy
• Support groups
• Other anti anxiety medications
• PTSD can be complicated by other factors
• Alcohol abuse
• Depression
• Other mental issues
• Panic attack
• Good prognosis is expected if:
• Early diagnosis
• Prompt treatment
• Good support
• Group therapy
• Family support
National Institute of Mental Health
National Institute of Mental Health
Science Writing, Press & Dissemination Branch
6001 Executive Boulevard
Room 8184, MSC 9663
Bethesda, MD 20892–9663
(6464) toll-free
TTY: 301–443–8431
TTY: 866–415–8051 toll-free
FAX: 301–443–4279
E-mail: [email protected]
Web site:
• Michael J Murphy, Ronald L Cowan, Lloyd I Sederer, Blueprints
Psychiatry, 5th ed. Wolters Kluwer, 2009