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Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is often associated with soldiers returning from war. While it’s much less prevalent than other mental health issues, civilians can still be affected by PTSD after experiencing a traumatic event. According to the National Center for PTSD, about 6 of every 10 men (or 60%) and 5 of every 10 women (or 50%) experience at least one trauma in their lives. This article will help you understand what PTSD is, who is most at risk of developing it, and how to identify its symptoms in someone you know. Keep reading to learn more.

What is PTSD?

Post-traumatic stress disorder is a mental health condition that can affect people who have experienced a traumatic event. It can lead to re-experiencing the trauma through nightmares or flashbacks, avoiding situations that remind you of the event, and feeling numb or disconnected from others.

Domestic abuse can cause PTSD
Domestic abuse can cause PTSD

PTSD can be a reaction to any experience that might cause intense fear or terror, including combat, sexual assault, car accidents, natural disasters, or violent crimes.

It also can occur after childbirth, child abuse, or other medical procedures. People with PTSD have a much higher risk of depression, anxiety disorders, substance abuse, and even suicide.

What Causes PTSD?

The specific cause of PTSD is still unknown. Scientists have concluded that it is a result of a combination of biological, psychological, and environmental factors. While the experience that caused it can be traced back to one specific moment – a car accident, a traumatic childhood event, a violent crime – the effects of that experience don’t end with the incident itself.

First responders attending to an injured motorist.
PTSD can be traced back to a specific moment such as an auto accident.

As the person reels from the immediate aftermath, their stress hormone levels elevate. These hormones are responsible for the reaction we know as “fight or flight”: All systems go into overdrive to prepare the body for a potentially deadly situation. As soon as the body realizes the danger is gone, the hormones subside and everything returns to normal.

If the traumatic event continues for too long, though, the body’s natural coping mechanism doesn’t have a chance to reset itself. The elevated stress hormone levels remain in the system, ready to react to anything else that might be dangerous. Since there’s no real threat, they’re just waiting idly by, which can have some nasty side effects.

What Are Some Symptoms of PTSD?

Every person is different, which means they can experience PTSD differently. There are, however, some common symptoms of this condition that many experience. Below are key symptoms to look for if you suspect you or your family member might have PTSD.

A couple struggling with PTSD
  • Intrusive thoughts or memories related to the traumatic event.
  • Negative changes in beliefs or feelings about yourself or others.
  • Flashbacks.
  • Outbursts of anger or irritability.
  • Extreme avoidance of situations or things that remind you of the trauma.
  • Feeling detached or distant from others
  • Trouble falling or staying asleep.
  • Feeling exhausted all the time.
  • Increased anxiety.
  • Trouble concentrating.
  • Feeling sad or hopeless.
  • Trouble trusting others.
  • Feeling like you’re always on edge.
  • Trouble being in public.
  • Feeling guilty.
  • Feeling very nervous

How to Help Someone with PTSD

If someone you know is struggling with PTSD, you can help them by being understanding and supportive. It’s a good idea to seek professional help from a therapist who specializes in PTSD and can provide you and your loved ones with the tools and resources needed to recover from the trauma.

Seek out a friend who will listen

You can also help by following these tips:

  • Be patient – It’s important not to pressure your loved one to recover quickly. They may need more time than others to feel better.
  • Be empathetic – This is difficult but crucial: You have to try to understand where your loved one is coming from. What led them to this place? Why they’re feeling the way they do?
  • Be present – Don’t try to distract your loved one from their fears and emotions. Instead, acknowledge them and encourage them to feel and process them.

3 Tips for Recovery from PTSD

Recovery from PTSD is a gradual and ongoing. Healing doesn’t happen overnight, nor do the memories of the trauma ever disappear entirely. There some tips that can help you cope with the residual symptoms and reduce your anxiety and fear.  

Get professional help for PTSD
Getting professional help is a key to coping with PTSD
  • Talking through your emotions and experiences will help you to process them and move on. It’s important to find a safe space to do this, like therapy, so you can feel free to share your feelings without fearing judgment.
  • Practice mindfulness. This means focusing on the present moment, not letting your mind wander back to the past. It’s a great way to keep your emotions and thoughts in check when they start to get out of hand.
  • Find healthy outlets for your emotions. Don’t let your stress and emotions build up inside you until they’re ready to explode. Find healthy ways, like exercise, to let them out.


Post-traumatic stress disorder is an anxiety disorder that can develop in response to a traumatic event. It can affect people of all ages, including children. It is normal to feel stressed, frightened, or sad after a traumatic event, but if these feelings do not go away, or if they get worse, you may be suffering from PTSD. The most effective way to treat PTSD is to seek help from a doctor and a therapist.

For more information about emergency prepping while coping with mental illness, follow this link and check out my prior post.

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About Post Author


During the day, Ms. Williams is a compliance officer for a major insurance agency in Florida. In her free time she enjoys the great outdoors and share her passion for the adventures life has to offer. She now shares her passion for Emergency Preparedness, making it simple for everyone to start.
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