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PTSD, or post-traumatic stress disorder, is a debilitating condition that can develop following a terrifying event, such as an accident or natural disaster. Often, people with the condition have persistent frightening thoughts and constantly relive the ordeal. They may feel emotionally numb and have difficulty with personal relationships. People with PTSD can be helped by medications and carefully targeted psychotherapy.

What Is PTSD?

Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is an anxiety disorder that can develop after exposure to a terrifying event or ordeal in which grave physical harm occurred or was threatened. Traumatic events that may trigger PTSD include:
  • Violent personal assaults
  • Natural or human-caused disasters
  • Accidents
  • Military combat.

Who Does It Affect?

Examples of those who may experience PTSD include:
  • Military troops who served in the Vietnam and Gulf wars
  • Rescue workers involved in the aftermath of disasters like the terrorist attacks on New York City and Washington, D.C.
  • Survivors of the Oklahoma City bombing
  • Survivors of accidents, rape, physical and sexual abuse, and other crimes
  • Immigrants fleeing violence in their countries
  • Survivors of the 1994 California earthquake, the 1997 North and South Dakota floods, and hurricanes Hugo and Andrew
  • People who witness traumatic events.
Family members of victims also can develop the disorder.
PTSD can occur in people of any age, including children and adolescents.
Written by/reviewed by:
Last reviewed by: Arthur Schoenstadt, MD
Last updated/reviewed:
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