Post Traumatic Stress Disorder

What is Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder? 

Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) can occur as a reaction to experiencing traumatic events.  The traumatic event may be sudden, like a natural disaster or fire, a rape, a crime, a car accident, or combat experiences.  Or, the trauma may have continued over a longer time, as with domestic violence, childhood abuse or neglect, sexual molestation or incest, living in a war zone, or living under a violent or oppressive government.

 What Are Some Possible Symptoms of PTSD?

Symptoms of PTSD can include:

  • Difficulty “letting go” of the event, or dwelling on “what if?”
  • Having sudden memories (“flashbacks”) of the traumatic event or reliving the event in your mind, even if you don’t want to
  • Nightmares; difficulty falling asleep or staying asleep
  • Sleeping more than usual
  • “Survivor guilt” (feeling guilty for surviving and event when others didn’t)
  • Feeling emotionally overwhelmed, or having emotions get out of control
  • Flying into rages; frustration
  • Lack of interest in usual activities or hobbies; apathy
  • Withdrawing from family, friends, or coworkers; not wanting to talk
  • Feeling emotionally detached, “shut down”, numb, or unable to relate to others
  • No interest in sex
  • Being irritable, jumpy, “on guard”, “wired”, or unable to relax
  • Feeling insecure around friends; feeling uncomfortable in crowds
  • Not wanting to be touched
  • Suddenly crying or crying frequently
  • Avoiding things that remind one of the traumatic experience
  • Feeling fearful or being afraid to leave home; panic attacks
  • Increased conflict with others
  • Difficulty concentrating or remembering things; poor attention span
  • Difficulty making decisions or solving problems
  • Confusion
  • Reading something over and over again, but still not understanding it
  • Feeling like your going crazy
  • Feeling helpless
  • Violent fantasies
  • Suicidal thoughts and/or attempts
  • Clinging
  • Depression may also be present (feelings of sadness, hopelessness, loneliness, changes in sleeping or eating habits, difficulty making decisions, lack of energy)

 What Help Is Available For PTSD?

Talking about one’s feelings with family, friends, a support group, or professionals can help a person to recover from PTSD.  Eating right, exercising, structuring one’s time, keeping a journal, and doing something enjoyable in order to relax can help to ease the symptoms of PTSD. 

Some symptoms can be treated under medical supervision.  (Do not try to use alcohol or illegal drugs to try to ease the symptoms.)  A mental health professional can make a medical diagnosis of PTSD by asking a series of questions listed in a manual called DSM-IV.

 Sources of help can include:

  • Employee Assistance Programs (EAPs) offered by some employers
  • Mental health or psychiatric services
  • Victim assistance centers
  • Social services
  • A support group that addresses the traumatic experience

Recovering from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder is a process of healing.  It can take time.  Professional help, the support of others, and the practical measures mentioned above can help the healing process.


This information has been written with resources available from:

PTSD Alliance   1-877-507-PTSD
Anxiety Disorder Association of America  
(Slaby, 1989) 
Sidran Institutue 
Employee Assistance Program for employees of the state of Washington