Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is a mental health condition that can develop after witnessing or living through a traumatic life experience. It causes a wide range of symptoms, including re-experiencing the trauma, avoidance of reminders of the trauma, and increased emotional arousal.
Who Is Most At Risk?
PTSD affects people from all walks of life, regardless of age, gender, or cultural background. However, not everyone who experiences a traumatic event will develop PTSD.
The following factors have been shown to increase the likelihood of an individual developing PTSD in the presence of a traumatic experience:
- Previous or current mental health disorders, such as depression or anxiety
- Genetic predisposition – having first-degree relatives with PTSD
- Lack of social support
- Poor stress management and coping skills
- Being a woman
- Childhood abuse/neglect
Common Symptoms of PTSD
As mentioned, people with PTSD may experience recurring, distressing memories, thoughts, or dreams about the trauma. They may also avoid anything that reminds them of the traumatic experience, including people, places, and activities.
Other symptoms of PTSD include:
- Hypervigilance (being on high alert all the time)
- Irritability or aggression
- Difficulty sleeping or concentrating
- A feeling of emotional detachment
- Overwhelming anxiety
- Problems experiencing positive emotions
- Intense fear
- Social isolation
- Issues trusting others
Prevalence of PTSD
PTSD is a relatively common condition affecting millions of people worldwide. According to the National Center for PTSD, an estimated nearly 8 percent of the US adult population will have PTSD at any given point.
While anybody can develop PTSD, the prevalence rate is higher for certain groups of people, such as military personnel, first responders, and survivors of sexual assault. Females have also been shown to be up to 5 times more likely to develop PTSD compared to their male counterparts.
The prevalence of PTSD in US military personnel has been extensively studied, with some estimates suggesting that as many as 10 to 30 percent of veterans who served in combat operations develop PTSD.
Survivors of sexual assault are also at an increased risk of developing PTSD. Studies have shown that around 46 percent of women and approximately 65 percent of men who have undergone sexual assault will go on to develop PTSD.
For first responders, data from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) shows that about one in every three first responders will develop PTSD at some point in their lives.
Is PTSD Treatable?
The good news is that PTSD is a treatable condition. With the right help, people with PTSD can manage their symptoms and live meaningful lives. The most effective treatments for PTSD include psychotherapy and medications such as antidepressants, anti-anxiety drugs, or antipsychotics.
In some cases, lifestyle changes such as exercising, eating a balanced diet, managing stress, and getting enough sleep can also help to reduce symptoms.
Overall, PTSD is a relatively common mental health condition that can have a significant impact on an individual’s quality of life. It affects millions of people countrywide, particularly military veterans, first responders, as well as survivors of sexual assault and other traumatic life experiences.
If you think you may have PTSD, it’s important to seek professional help. A healthcare provider can assess your symptoms, provide an accurate diagnosis, and develop a personalized treatment to help effectively manage your symptoms and get you started on your journey to recovery.