What is PTSD?

Who's at Risk?





Getting Help



What is PTSD?

It is common for people to feel that no matter what they’ve faced or lived with, no matter how extreme, they should be able to carry on. But sometimes people face situations that are so traumatic that they may become unable to cope and function in their daily lives. Some people become so distressed by memories of the trauma – memories that won’t go away – that they begin to live their lives trying to avoid any reminders of what happened to them.

A person who feels this way months after a traumatic experience has passed may be suffering from Posttraumatic Stress Disorder, or PTSD, a serious and common health condition. For these people, getting beyond the trauma and overcoming PTSD requires the help of a professional.

  • PTSD may develop following exposure to extreme trauma.
  • Extreme trauma is a terrifying event or ordeal that a person has experienced, witnessed or learned about, especially one that is life-threatening or causes physical harm. It can be a single event or repeated experience.
  • The experience causes that person to feel intense fear, horror or a sense of helplessness.
  • The stress caused by trauma can affect all aspects of a person’s life, including mental, emotional and physical well-being.
  • Research suggests that prolonged trauma may disrupt and alter brain chemistry. For some people, this may lead to the development of PTSD.


  • An estimated 70 percent of adults in the United States have experienced a traumatic event at least once in their lives, and up to 20 percent of these people go on to develop Posttraumatic Stress Disorder, or PTSD.
  • An estimated 5 percent of Americans – more than 13 million people – have PTSD at any given time.
  • Approximately 8 percent of all adults – one of 13 people in this country – will develop PTSD during their lifetime.
  • An estimated one out of 10 women will get PTSD at some time in their lives. Women are about twice as likely as men to develop PTSD. This may be due to the fact that women tend to experience interpersonal violence (such as domestic violence, rape or abuse) more often than men.
  • Almost 17 percent of men and 13 percent of women have experienced more than three traumatic events in their lives.
  • The estimated risk for developing PTSD for people who have experienced the following traumatic events is:

- Rape (49 percent)
  - Severe beating or physical assault (31.9 percent)
  - Other sexual assault (23.7 percent)
  - Serious accident or injury; for example, car or train accident (16.8 percent)
  - Shooting or stabbing (15.4 percent)
  - Sudden, unexpected death of family member or friend (14.3 percent)
  - Child’s life-threatening illness (10.4 percent)
  - Witness to killing or serious injury (7.3 percent)
  - Natural disaster (3.8 percent)

Next >

Home | About PTSD | Resource Center | Alliance Members | Contact Us

The PTSD Alliance is supported by Beachway Therapy Center, a Florida based addiction treatment center.