Understanding PTSD

Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) once known as “shell shock”, a vague condition affecting war veterans

Currently, PTSD affects an estimated:


Population of America (~7.7 million people)


Veterans of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars (~300,000 people)

Other statistics:


of the population will experience PTSD at some point in their lifetime


of the population will experience a traumatic event in their lifetime

Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) also known as PTS may arise when people experience a traumatic event such as death, threatened death, serious injury, or actual or threatened sexual violence.*

This definition applies primarily to simple trauma, or exposure to one particular traumatic event. By contrast, complex trauma may arise from exposure over time to prolonged, repeated trauma, such as physical or sexual abuse, neglect, or violence. The symptom pictures resulting from simple and complex trauma differ somewhat.

Response to trauma is unique to each person; what is traumatic to one person may not be to another. People who have experienced war, assault, rape, torture, a serious accident, a natural disaster, medical trauma (e.g., waking up during surgery), and other events that pose the threat of death or serious injury are potentially at risk for to develop PTSD. PTSD can involve direct exposure to one or more of these events, witnessing such an event, or hearing about someone close to them experiencing such an event.

PTSD can also arise when professionals and others experience repeated indirect exposure to traumatic events (vicarious trauma) or in others, especially family members, who hear about the first-hand trauma experiences of others (secondary trauma). Women are at greater risk for developing PTSD than men.

Identify PTSD

Unlike a rash or broken arm, PTSD can be tough to identify,

especially when it’s happening in your own mind. Though it can look and feel like depression or rage, PTSD is different. And it can affect everything from the way you sleep to your relationships at home and work.

Whether you’re thinking about it or not, memories of the traumatic event can come back to bother you. You may experience them in your sleep as nightmares or during the day as flashbacks. That means you relive the event as if it’s happening for the first time.

Both can cause you to feel anxious, afraid, guilty, or suspicious. These emotions may play out physically in the form of chills, shaking, headaches, heart palpitations, and panic attacks.

If you see yourself in any of these symptoms, check with your doctor for a diagnosis.

Cognition & Mood Changes

  • Can’t recall key features or event
  • Negative beliefs about self or world
  • Distored blame
  • Persistent fear, horror, anger, guilt or shame

Arousal & Reactiviry Changes

  • Irritable or aggressive
  • Self-destructive
  • Hypervigilance
  • Exaggetared startle response
  • Problems with concentration
  • Sleep problems


  • Involutary & recurrent memories
  • Traumatic nightmares
  • Flashbacks
  • Intense or prolonged distress after exposure to reminders


Avoiding trauma-related:

  • Thoughts
  • Conversations
  • Feelings
  • Activities
  • People
  • Objects
  • Places
  • Situations


Recommended Treatments: Treatments With The Most Research Support

Trauma-focused Psychotherapies

Trauma-focused psychotherapies are the most highly recommended type of treatment for PTSD. "Trauma-focused" means that the treatment focuses on the memory of the traumatic event or its meaning. These treatments use different techniques to help you process your traumatic experience. Some involve visualizing, talking, or thinking about the traumatic memory. Others focus on changing unhelpful beliefs about the trauma. They usually last about 8-16 sessions.

The trauma-focused psychotherapies with the strongest evidence are:

Brief Eclectic Psychotherapy (BEP)

A therapy in which you practice relaxation skills, recall details of the traumatic memory, reframe negative thoughts about the trauma, write a letter about the traumatic event, and hold a farewell ritual to leave trauma in the past.

Narrative Exposure Therapy (NET)

Developed for people who have experienced trauma from ongoing war, conflict, and organized violence. You talk through stressful life events in order (from birth to the present day) and put them together into a story.

Written Narrative Exposure

Involves writing about the trauma during sessions. Your provider gives instructions on the writing assignment, allows you to complete the writing alone, and then returns at the end of the session to briefly discuss any reactions to the writing assignment.

Specific cognitive behavioral therapies (CBTs) for PTSD

Include a limited number of psychotherapies shown to work for PTSD where the provider helps you learn how to change unhelpful behaviors or thoughts.

There are four antidepressant medications that are recommended for PTSD:

  • Sertraline (Zoloft)
  • Paroxetine (Paxil)
  • Fluoxetine (Prozac)
  • Venlafaxine (Effexor)

These psychotherapies may be a good option if you are not interested in trauma-focused psychotherapy

Treatments with some research support

Some psychotherapies do not focus on the traumatic event, but do help you process your reactions to the trauma and manage symptoms related to PTSD. The research behind these treatments is not as strong as the research supporting trauma-focused psychotherapies (listed above). However, these psychotherapies may be a good option if you are not interested in trauma-focused psychotherapy, or if it is not available:

Stress Inoculation Training (SIT)

A cognitive-behavioral therapy that teaches skills and techniques to manage stress and reduce anxiety.

Present-Centered Therapy (PCT)

Focuses on current life problems that are related to PTSD.

Interpersonal Psychotherapy (IPT)

Focuses on the impact of trauma on interpersonal relationships.

Treatments that do not yet have research support

There may be other options available such as certain complementary and integrative medicine approaches (like yoga, meditation, or acupuncture), biological treatments (like hyperbaric oxygen therapy or transcranial magnetic stimulation), or online treatment programs. These treatments do not have strong research behind them at this time, but you and your doctor can discuss the benefits and risks of these options to determine whether or not they are right for you.

For more information and other treatments and recommendations, please visit www.ptsd.va.gov

*****This Content is intended for educational Purposes only . Together For The Good Inc. and its subsidiary are not responsible or liable for misuse or abuse of any materials . Always consult a licensed professional before consuming any medication .