What is Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)?
Home/  Blog/ What is Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)?

What is Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)?




PTSD is a complex mental illness. With proper information and care, it can be treated successfully.


After reading this article, you will be more informed about this serious disorder.






What is Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)?


PTSD, or post-traumatic stress disorder, is a mental health diagnosis, identifying a mental illness. Both the National Center for PTSD and The American Psychiatric Association defines it being exposed to an extreme stressor or traumatic event to which they responded with fear, helplessness, or horror, and experiencing four distinct types of symptoms related to the traumatic event/stressor.


People get PTSD after a traumatic event or series of events. War veterans were the first group studied around PTSD before it was even a formal and recognized disorder. This was because of the commonly gruesome traumatic experience of being in a war.


One way to think of PTSD is when someone’s “fight or flight” response is in overdrive, making it hard for the logical part of our brain to calm down our bodies.




What causes PTSD?


Exposure to an extreme stressor or traumatic event can cause PTSD. However, not everyone who is exposed to a traumatic event gets PTSD. Researchers from the Journal of Evidence-Informed Social Work state that while around half of all Americans experience some type of traumatic incidents in their lives, only 7-8% of those people go on to develop PTSD. 




What are the four types of PTSD symptoms?


The National Institute of Mental Health outline the symptoms of PTSD. NIMH states that people with PTSD must have at least one re-experiencing symptom, one avoidance symptom, two arousal symptoms, and two cognitive/mood symptoms. What do these symptoms look like?


Re-experiencing symptoms can include:

  • Flashbacks
  • Bad dreams


Avoidance symptoms can include:

  • Avoiding places, events, people, or objects that remind you of the event.
  • Avoiding thoughts or feelings related to the event.


Arousal symptoms can include:

  • Being easily startled
  • Feeling tense or “on edge”
  • Having difficulty sleeping
  • Angry outbursts
  • Difficulty concentrating


Cognitive/Mood symptoms can include:

  • Trouble remembering key features of the event
  • Negative thoughts about yourself or the world
  • Distorted feelings of guilt/blame (i.e. blaming yourself or feeling guilty about things you had no control over)
  • Loss of interest in activities you used to enjoy
  • Feeling detached from others
  • On going difficulty with feeling positive emotions (i.e. love or joy)


It is also important to remember after a traumatic experience, such as the death of a loved one, being in a natural disaster, or sexual assault, it is normal to experience symptoms consistent with PTSD.


If you or someone you know is experiencing these symptoms for more than three months after that event, it may be helpful to think about seeking out additional support.