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Post-traumatic stress disorder
It's natural to be afraid when you're in danger. It's natural to be upset when something bad happens to you or someone you know. But if you feel afraid and upset weeks or months later, it's time to talk with your doctor. You might have post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).
Living through or seeing something that's upsetting and dangerous can cause PTSD. This can include:
- Being a victim of or seeing violence
- The death or serious illness of a loved one
- War or combat
- Car accidents and plane crashes
- Hurricanes, tornadoes, and fires
- Violent crimes, like a robbery or shooting
There are many other things that can cause PTSD. Talk to your doctor if you are troubled by something that happened to you or someone you care about. Your doctor can help you find out if you have PTSD. Call your doctor if you have any of these problems:
- Bad dreams
- Flashbacks, or feeling like the scary event is happening again
- Scary thoughts you can't control
- Staying away from places and things that remind you of what happened
- Feeling worried, guilty, or sad
- Feeling alone
- Trouble sleeping
- Feeling on edge
- Angry outbursts
- Thoughts of hurting yourself or others
PTSD starts at different times for different people. Signs of PTSD may start soon after a frightening event and then continue. Other people develop new or more severe signs months or even years later.
PTSD can be treated. A doctor or mental health professional who has experience in treating people with PTSD can help you. Treatment may include "talk" therapy, medication, or both.
Treatment might take 6 to 12 weeks. For some people, it takes longer. Treatment is not the same for everyone. What works for you might not work for someone else. Drinking alcohol or using other drugs will not help PTSD go away, and may even make it worse.
Explore other publications and websites
Anxiety Disorders — This publication provides information about the different anxiety disorders, including obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), panic disorder, and social phobia, among others.
Employees With Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (Copyright © Job Accommodation Network) — This publication for employers offers basic information about issues specific to employees with post-traumatic stress disorder. The article discusses the issues that can affect these individuals, offers suggestions for employers and also includes example scenarios as well as a list of resources for further information.
Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder — Many people develop post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) after lving through something that is upsetting and dangerous. This publication discusses the importance of getting help for symptoms associated with PTSD, and provides a checklist of the physical and mental symptoms of PTSD.
Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (Copyright © Mental Health America) — This fact sheet provides a detailed overview of post-traumatic stress disorder, including its causes, symptoms, and ways to recovery.
Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) — This page links to helpful information from the National Institute of Mental Health about PTSD.
Posttraumatic Stress Disorder (Copyright © Madison Institute of Health) — This website provides a place where visitors can learn about the likelihood of being affected by post-traumatic stress disorder in a reassuring, confidential environment. Helpful treatment resources are also provided, as well as continuing education for clinicians.
Posttraumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) (Copyright © Anxiety Disorders Association of America) — This web page describes the three main categories of symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder. It also discusses who is at risk of having PTSD.
PTSD in Children and Adolescents — This fact sheet provides information about PTSD symptoms and treatment in children.
Screening for Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (Copyright © Anxiety Disorders Association of America) — Complete this quick self-test and bring the answers to your doctor. He or she can tell if you have PTSD, and if so, recommend treatment options.
What Is Posttraumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)? (Copyright © New York Online Access to Health) — This website provides links to online publications with in-depth information about post-traumatic stress disorder, including its symptoms, causes, and treatment options.
Connect with other organizations
Anxiety Disorders Association of America
Freedom From Fear
Mental Health America
National Center for Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder
National Institute of Mental Health, NIH, HHS
Veterans’ Families United
Content last updated March 29, 2010.
Resources last updated March 29, 2010.
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