Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder F.A.Q.

What is post-traumatic stress disorder, or PTSD?

It’s natural to be afraid when you’re in danger. It’s natural to be upset when something bad happens to you or someone you know. But if you feel afraid and upset weeks or months later, it’s time to talk with your doctor. You might have post-traumatic stress disorder.

PTSD is a real illness. You can get PTSD after living through or seeing a dangerous event, such as war, a hurricane, or bad accident. PTSD makes you feel stressed and afraid after the danger is over. It affects your life and the people around you.

If you have PTSD, you can get treatment and feel better.

Who gets PTSD?

PTSD can happen to anyone at any age. Children get PTSD too.

You don’t have to be physically hurt to get PTSD. You can get it after you see other people, such as a friend or family member, get hurt.

What causes PTSD?

Living through or seeing something that’s upsetting and dangerous can cause PTSD. This can include:

  • Being a victim of or seeing violence
  • The death or serious illness of a loved one
  • War or combat
  • Car accidents and plane crashes
  • Hurricanes, tornadoes, and fires
  • Violent crimes, like a robbery or shooting.

There are many other things that can cause PTSD. Talk to your doctor if you are troubled by something that happened to you or someone you care about.

How do I know if I have PTSD?

  • Your doctor can help you find out. Call your doctor if you have any of these problems:
  • Bad dreams
  • Flashbacks, or feeling like the scary event is happening again
  • Scary thoughts you can’t control
  • Staying away from places and things that remind you of what happened
  • Feeling worried, guilty, or sad
  • Feeling alone
  • Trouble sleeping
  • Feeling on edge
  • Angry outbursts
  • Thoughts of hurting yourself or others.

Children who have PTSD may show other types of problems. These can include:

  • Behaving like they did when they were younger
  • Being unable to talk
  • Complaining of stomach problems or headaches a lot
  • Refusing to go places or play with friends.

When does PTSD start?

PTSD starts at different times for different people. Signs of PTSD may start soon after a frightening event and then continue. Other people develop new or more severe signs months or even years later.

How can I get better?

PTSD can be treated. A doctor or mental health professional who has experience in treating people with PTSD can help you. Treatment may include “talk” therapy, medication, or both.

Treatment might take 6 to 12 weeks. For some people, it takes longer. Treatment is not the same for everyone. What works for you might not work for someone else.

Drinking alcohol or using other drugs will not help PTSD go away and may even make it worse.

What if I or someone I know is in crisis?

If you are thinking about harming yourself, or know someone who is, tell someone who can help immediately:

  • Call your doctor.
  • Call 911 or go to a hospital emergency room to get immediate help or ask a friend or family member to help you do these things.
  • Call the toll-free, 24-hour hotline of the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (1-800-273-8255); TTY: 1-800-799-4TTY (4889) to talk to a trainedcounselor.
  • Make sure you or the suicidal person is not left alone.

Acknowledgements and Notices

IMPORTANT: The information on this website is NOT intended to substitute for the expertise and advice of a qualified healthcare professional. We encourage you to discuss any decisions about treatment or care with a qualified healthcare professional.

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