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Understanding PTSD

Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is a disorder that’s triggered by a traumatic event.

It’s common to experience a brief period of difficulty adjusting and coping after a tragic event. But with time and healthy coping skills, these problems usually go away. In some cases, though, it gets worse and can last for months or even years. Sometimes, the symptoms can completely disrupt your life. If this is the case for you, PTSD could be the problem. The good news: Getting treatment early can prevent PTSD from becoming a long-term condition.

Who is at risk?

  • anyone who has been victimized (survivors of rape, domestic violence or physical assault)
  • survivors of unexpected events (car accidents, fires, floods)
  • victims of combat (soldiers or veterans)
  • emergency responders (police, firefighters, rescue workers)
  • anyone experiencing the unexpected loss of a loved one

What are the symptoms?

  • having flashbacks, nightmares or bad memories
  • trying not to think about the trauma
  • avoiding people who remind you of the event
  • forgetting parts of the event
  • feeling numb or not connecting with others
  • having trouble sleeping
  • being irritable, angry or jumpy

When to see a doctor

If symptoms last for more than a month, if they’re affecting your daily life or if you’re having trouble handling your emotions, talk to your healthcare provider—especially if you’re thinking about harming yourself or others.

Treatments

Medication, psychotherapy or both can help. You and a healthcare professional can work together to find out which treatments are best for you.