Post-traumatic stress disorder, or "PTSD," is a condition that can happen after people see or live through a trauma. A trauma is an intense event that involves serious injury or death, or the chance of serious injury or death. This can include medical events, such as a heart attack, surgery, or treatment in a hospital's intensive care unit ("ICU"). PTSD can cause nightmares, upsetting memories, anxiety, and other symptoms.
Post-traumatic stress disorder is often called PTSD. It can happen to people who have suffered from a severe injury or harm. It may also happen after seeing someone else hurt or die from a painful event. War veterans, rape and abuse victims, those who have been in car or plane crash, and people who have been part of a natural disaster are more likely to get PTSD. Signs may include bad dreams, reliving the event over and over, or feeling very down. You may fear or avoid others or certain places. You may feel angry, worried, or even that things are your fault.
Sometimes, your signs show up within a short time after the event. For some, signs may not show up for months or years. Doctors will work to treat the signs you have from PTSD.
Not everyone who sees or lives through a trauma will get PTSD. Doctors do not know why some people get PTSD and others don't as PTSD can happen at any age.
These symptoms can start right after the trauma. If they last longer than 3 days, they could be symptoms of a related condition called acute stress disorder (ASD). If they last longer than a month, they could be symptoms of PTSD. Sometimes, though, symptoms of PTSD start years later. The symptoms often affect a person's job, relationships, or daily life.
Symptoms of PTSD can come and go. They might return when people are under stress or see or hear something that reminds them of the trauma.
Your doctor or nurse should be able to tell if you have it by learning about your symptoms, asking you questions, and doing an exam.
If you are having trouble coping because of your PTSD symptoms, you should do one or both of the following:
If you are thinking of hurting yourself, or if you feel that life isn't worth living, you should get help right away:
Physical activity like sports and exercise may help you feel better. Talk to your doctor about what activity will be good. Think about your signs and choose places for activity that will not raise your stress. Have friends or family join you. Ask your doctor for help if you feel too tired from the drugs.
The Teach Back Method helps you understand the information we are giving you. The idea is simple. After talking with the staff, tell them in your own words what you were just told. This helps to make sure the staff has covered each thing clearly.
It also helps to explain things that may have been a bit confusing. Before going home, make sure you are able to do these:
This information is not specific medical advice and does not replace information you receive from your healthcare provider. This is only a brief summary of general information. It does NOT include all information about conditions, illnesses, injuries, tests, procedures, treatments, therapies, discharge instructions or lifestyle choices that may apply to you. You must talk with your health care provider for complete information about your health and treatment options. This information should not be used to decide whether or not to accept your health care provider’s advice, instructions or recommendations. Only your health care provider has the knowledge and training to provide advice that is right for you.
You must talk with your health care provider for complete information about your health and treatment options. This information should not be used to decide whether or not to accept your health care provider’s advice, instructions or recommendations. Only your health care provider has the knowledge and training to provide advice that is right for you.
All topics are updated as new evidence becomes available and our peer review process is complete.
This content is intended for informational purposes only. It should not replace professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. If you think you have a medical emergency, call 911 or your doctor immediately.