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Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is a mental health issue that often starts after a shocking event. PTSD has also been called "shell shock" or "battle fatigue."
The exact cause of PTSD is unknown. It is often triggered by an event that causes intense fear, helplessness, or horror. PTSD is known to happen after:
Changes in the brain after injury may be linked to PTSD.
PTSD may be more likely in those with:
Symptoms may last for a short time after an event or last for months after. Some may not begin until 6 months or more after the event. PTSD can cause anxiety, which leads to:
PTSD may also lead to:
The doctor will ask about symptoms and past health. They will also ask about your moods, and overall wellness. The doctor will make a diagnosis based on your symptoms and details that you share.
PTSD can be managed with therapy. The goal is to reduce the effect of PTSD on everyday life and relationships. The exact steps will depend on your specific needs. Treatment may be short or long term. Some treatment options include:
Cognitive-behavior therapy (CBT) is a very effective type of counseling for PTSD. Therapy focuses on:
There are a few different types of CBT including:
A therapist will ask you to do simple tasks while talking about the traumatic event. Tasks may include hand-tapping, following therapist's hand with your eyes, or listening to tones through headphones. This allows your brain to process the trauma in a different way.
Other therapeutic options that may help include:
Medicine can help to manage some symptoms. They may help with anxiety, depression, and insomnia while you work through treatment.
PTSD cannot be prevented.
Anxiety and Depression Association of America
National Center for PTSD—US Department of Veterans Affairs
Canadian Psychiatric Association
Canadian Psychological Association
Jeffereys M. Clinician's guide to medications for PTSD. National Center for PTSD—US Department of Veterans Affairs website. Available at: https://www.ptsd.va.gov/professional/treatment/overview/clinicians-guide-to-medications-for-ptsd.asp. Accessed January 31, 2021.
Post-traumatic stress disorder. American Psychiatric Association website. Available at: http://www.apa.org/topics/ptsd/index.aspx. Accessed January 31, 2021.
Posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD). EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: http://www.dynamed.com/topics/dmp~AN~T114915/Posttraumatic-stress-disorder-PTSD. Accessed January 31, 2021.
Treatment. National Center for PTSD—US Department of Veterans Affairs website. Available at: http://www.ptsd.va.gov/public/treatment/therapy-med/index.asp. Accessed January 31, 2021.
10/12/2015 DynaMed Plus Systematic Literature Surveillance http://www.dynamed.com/topics/dmp~AN~T114915/Posttraumatic-stress-disorder-PTSD: Polusny MA, Erbes CR, Thuras P, et al. Mindfulness-based stress reduction for posttraumatic stress disorder among veterans: a randomized clinical trial. JAMA. 2015;314(5):456-465.
Last reviewed January 2021 by EBSCO Medical Review Board Adrian Preda, MD Last Updated: 01/20/2021