Post Traumatic Stress Disorder

What is Post Traumatic Stress Disorder?

A person with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) has either witnessed or personally experienced a traumatic event, to which they responded with fear, helplessness or horror. They subsequently experience the continual triggering of fearful and intense memories of the trauma (e.g. daytime memories, flashbacks & nightmares).

What are the symptoms of PTSD?

  • man looking out windowIt is common to experience stress following exposure to a traumatic event, but for most people the signs of stress disappear within days or weeks. For a person with PTSD, the symptoms are more severe, last longer, sometimes for many years, and they interfere with general functioning, including work, academic, relationships, health and quality of life
  • If a person shows signs of PTSD but for less than one month, they would be diagnosed as having Acute Stress Disorder
  • People who have PTSD clinical symptoms between 1 - 3 months are diagnosed with acute PTSD and those that have PTSD clinical symptoms for more than 3 months are diagnosed with chronic PTSD. It is also possible to have a delayed onset of PTSD, that is, if the symptoms develop 6 months or more after the trauma
  • A person with PTSD experiences increased arousal (e.g. difficulty sleeping and concentrating, irritability and feeling jumpy and on guard) and avoids situations, people and/or places that remind him/her of the trauma. The avoidance might also take the form of emotional numbing or restricted ability to feel emotions and feeling more distant from others
  • It is common for a person with PTSD to be experiencing other mental health conditions, including other anxiety disorders, depression, and substance abuse

Who gets PTSD?

  • PTSD has been found to be prevalent in 6.4% of Australian adults over a 12-month period (6 in 100)
  • More women (8.3%) than men (4.6%) experience PTSD
  • Factors that contribute to the development of PTSD are likely to include genetic factors and life experiences (e.g. parenting style, role modelling from other people & previous exposure to trauma)
  • The nature of the trauma also influences the likelihood of a person developing PTSD, such as the severity and duration of exposure to the traumatic event, how close the person was to the event, how many other trauma experiences the person has had and whether or not the trauma was inflicted by another person
Page last updated 22-Dec-2009