What is PTSD? Everything you need to know about the mental health condition, from symptoms to treatment

What is PTSD? Everything you need to know about the mental health condition, from symptoms to treatment

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June is PTSD Awareness Month.

PTSD, or post-traumatic stress disorder, is a mental health condition that develops in some people who have experienced a traumatic event.

Anyone who has witnessed or experienced a traumatic event can get PTSD. 


Some potential causes of PTSD include war, natural disasters, an assault or an accident.

One group for which PTSD is prevalent is veterans. 

PTSD can affect all ages. An individual can get PTSD after experiencing or witnessing a traumatic event. (iStock)

People of all ages can be affected. Those who have PTSD often experience feelings of fear or stress, even when there is no danger present.

Below is a deeper look into PTSD, including symptoms, dealing with triggers and common treatment options.

  1. What are the symptoms of PTSD?
  2. Who gets PTSD?
  3. How do you recover from PTSD triggers?
  4. Does PTSD ever go away?

1. What are the symptoms of PTSD?

There are four main categories of symptoms associated with PTSD, according to the National Institute of Mental Health. 

An individual must have all the following symptoms for at least one month in order to be diagnosed with PTSD, according to the same source. 

  • At least one re-experiencing symptom
  • At least one avoidance symptom
  • At least two arousal and reactivity symptoms
  • At least two cognition and mood symptoms

One of the most common re-experiencing symptoms is a flashback. A flashback is when aspects of the traumatic event are relived, making one feel like the past event is happening at that moment. 

Some other re-experiencing related symptoms include nightmares, as well as hearing or smelling something that causes the person to relive the event, according to the National Center for PTSD. 


Avoidance symptoms include a person doing things that take them away from the traumatic event. This could mean avoiding places or events that serve as a reminder of the traumatic occurrence, trying to avoid thinking or talking about the event, avoiding people that are a reminder of the event, and always feeling the need to keep busy.

Next, there are symptoms that revolve around arousal and reactivity.

Tiles spelling PTSD

There are several different symptoms that can appear in someone with PTSD. A common one is experiencing flashbacks. (iStock)

These symptoms include showing aggressive behavior, having a hard time concentrating, feeling jumpy, having a hard time sleeping, always being on guard, exhibiting self-destructive behavior and being easily frightened.

Lastly, there are cognition and mood symptoms. These symptoms include negative thoughts about oneself and the world, feeling hopeless about the future, problems with memory, difficulty maintaining close relationships, feeling detached from those around you, having a lack of interest in different activities, feelings of blame, feeling like you can’t trust anyone and feeling negative emotions. 

2. Who gets PTSD?

Anyone can develop PTSD at any age, according to the National Institute of Mental Health. 

The National Center for PTSD says most people will go through a traumatic event in their lifetime that has the potential to lead to PTSD. 


Best estimates by the National Center for PTSD reveal that five out of every hundred adults (5%) in the United States has PTSD in any given year. Additionally, most people who go through a traumatic event will not develop PTSD. 

Veterans are one group who develop PTSD more than the average civilian, especially if they are deployed to a war zone, according to the source. 

3. How do you recover from PTSD triggers?

There are many different approaches for dealing with triggers due to PTSD. 

Some common methods for dealing with triggers when they happen include practicing different techniques to relax, such as focusing on breathing, providing comfort with something like music, spending time outside and meditating, according to the National Center for PTSD. 

Girl with her head in her hands sitting on the floor beside her bed

Seeking out a support group or specialist can help individuals cope with PTSD. (iStock)

Other things to help deal with triggers are to confide in someone by talking about how you feel, finding a support group filled with people going through a similar situation and seeking specialists.

More recently, specially trained service dogs have also been used to help ease the symptoms that could emerge in someone dealing with PTSD in certain cases. 

4. Does PTSD ever go away? 

Not everyone who has PTSD needs medical treatment because, for most, the symptoms start to go away over time, usually within the first few weeks and months following the trauma, according to the National Center for PTSD. 


This is not true for everyone. 

In certain cases, symptoms can last for many years.

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A common treatment for PTSD is psychotherapy, also called talk therapy, according to the National Institute of Mental Health. 

Some common forms of psychotherapy for PTSD treatment are cognitive therapy and exposure therapy, according to the source. 

There is also sometimes a need for medication to be administered.

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