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May 2019

PTSD Can Happen to Anyone

People often associate post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) with active duty service members and veterans who’ve lived through unthinkable situations. But the reality is that anyone who has suffered or witnessed a shocking, scary, or dangerous event can develop PTSD. Some experiences such as the sudden, unexpected death of a loved one can also cause PTSD.  In fact, millions of people in the U.S. have the condition.

Man looking worried with hands to his head. Woman holding his shoulders and looking concerned

PTSD occurs when you experience trauma and continue to feel its effects long after the incident took place. Any traumatic event can cause PTSD, but some of the most common triggers include sexual assault, accidents, injuries, and natural disasters. You may feel stressed or frightened even though you’re no longer in any danger. Other symptoms of PTSD include:

  • Having flashbacks along with physical symptoms, such as a racing heart or sweating

  • Having bad dreams or trouble sleeping

  • Staying away from places, events, or things that remind you of the traumatic incident

  • Being startled easily

  • Losing interest in activities you used to enjoy

Many of these symptoms are common—and to be expected—after going through a scary or dangerous situation. Typically, they last for a few weeks and then gradually resolve on their own. But if your symptoms continue for more than a month and affect your everyday life, you could have PTSD. The condition often goes hand-in-hand with depression, substance abuse, or an anxiety disorder.

What you can do

If you think you may have PTSD, make an appointment with a mental health provider who is experienced with the disorder. Not sure where to go for help? Ask your family healthcare provider who they recommend. If you’re diagnosed with PTSD, treatments are available. They may include medicines such as antidepressants, psychotherapy, or a combination of the two.

Take care of yourself

As difficult as it may feel at times, try to hold on to the hope that you can get better. In addition to working with a mental health professional, you can take a few other steps to help yourself on a day-to-day basis. For example:

  • Exercise to help ease some stress.

  • Break big tasks into smaller, more manageable ones so they don’t feel as overwhelming.

  • Spend time with a trusted friend or relative and talk about what you’re experiencing.

  • Try to find situations, places, and people that feel comforting to you.

With time and treatment, you can get through this.


Online Medical Reviewer: Godsey, Cynthia, MSN, APRN, MSHE, FNP-BC
Date Last Reviewed: 4/1/2019
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