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What is Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)?

When in danger, it’s natural to feel fear. This fear triggers many split-second changes in the body to prepare to defend against the danger or avoid it, i.e., the “fight-or-flight” response. But people with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) feel stressed or frightened even when they’re no longer in danger.

PTSD develops after an ordeal that involved physical harm or the threat of harm, either to the afflicted person or a loved one. While it first came to the public’s attention in relation to war veterans, PTSD can result from any traumatic incident, such as mugging, rape, being held captive, child abuse, car accident, plane crash, a bombing, or a natural disaster.

Most people with PTSD repeatedly re-live the trauma in the form of nightmares and disturbing recollections during the day. They may experience sleep problems, depression, feeling detached or numb, or being easily startled. They may lose interest in things they once enjoyed and have trouble feeling affectionate. They may feel irritable, aggressive or even violent. Seeing things that remind them of the traumatic incident may be distressing, which could lead them to avoid certain places or situations that bring back memories. Anniversaries of the event can be difficult.

PTSD can occur at any age, including childhood.


Exploring PTSD in Firefighters (4 min 12 sec)

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Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder Resources

The Anxiety and Depression Association of America is a national nonprofit organization dedicated to the prevention, treatment, and cure of anxiety and mood disorders, and PTSD, and to improving the lives of all people who suffer from them through education, practice, and research.

The National Center for PTSD is a government organization dedicated to research and education on trauma and PTSD. One of its goals is to assure that the latest research findings help those exposed to trauma.

Sidran Traumatic Stress Institute Inc. is a nonprofit organization of international scope that helps people understand, recover from, and treat traumatic stress (including PTSD), as well as dissociative disorders and co-occurring issues, such as addictions, self-injury and suicidality.

The International Society for Traumatic Stress Studies is run by a group of elected and unelected volunteers from the various trauma-related disciplines around the world. They help to inform policy and engage in advocacy to ensure that the voices of those affected by trauma are heard by policymakers at the local, national and international levels.

Gift from Within is a non-profit organization dedicated to those who suffer post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), those at risk for PTSD, and those who care for traumatized individuals. It develops and disseminates educational material through its website, and maintains a roster of survivors who are willing to participate in an international network of peer support.