Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)

PTSD is a disorder that some people develop after experiencing a shocking, scary, or dangerous event. It is natural to feel afraid during and after a traumatic situation. This fear triggers many split-second changes in the body to respond to danger and help a person avoid danger in the future. This “fight-or-flight” response is a typical reaction meant to protect a person from harm. Nearly everyone will experience a range of reactions after trauma, yet most people will recover from those symptoms naturally. Those who continue to experience problems may be diagnosed with PTSD. People who have PTSD may feel stressed or frightened even when they are no longer in danger.

Examples of an extreme stressor includes:

  •  Serious accident or natural disaster
  • Rape or criminal assault
  • Combat exposure
  • Child sexual abuse or physical abuse or severe neglect
  • Hostage/imprisonment/torture/displacement as refugee
  • Witnessing a traumatic event
  • Sudden unexpected death of a loved one

Not every traumatized person develops PTSD and not everyone with PTSD has experienced a dangerous event. It is estimated that 5% of the population currently have PTSD and women are twice as likely to have PTSD as men. 

A person with PTSD may experience symptoms such as re-experiencing the traumatic event, finding ways to avoid thoughts, feelings, and reminders of the event, and an increased arousal or reactivity (for example: feeling "on edge," angry outburst, hypervigilance). Fortunately, effective treatments for PTSD are available. 

Additional Resources

PTSD and Memory

Treatment of Post Traumatic Disorder (PTSD): The Linen Cupboard Metaphor

The HPA Axis and Trauma

Fight or Flight Response

Managing a Crisis


Source: National Institute of Mental Health

Please remember this information is intended for educational purposes only and should not substitute medical advice from a healthcare provider.