A person holding their hands to their face in a dark room. Photo by Melanie Wasser on Unsplash

Have you or someone you know:

  • experienced a natural disaster?

  • survived war or combat?

  • witnessed an accident?

  • witnessed or experienced an act of violence?

People who experience these events might be more susceptible to post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Knowing the signs and symptoms of PTSD is the first step to seeking help.

What Is Post-traumatic Stress Disorder?

Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is a psychiatric disorder that may occur in people who have experienced or witnessed a traumatic event.

— American Psychiatric Association

Many associate the disorder with war veterans, but it can affect anyone:

  • Around 9 million people in the US (3.6% of the population) currently have a PTSD diagnosis.

  • Women are twice as likely as men to be diagnosed with PTSD.

  • Latinos, African America,s and Indigenous Americans are more likely than white people to be diagnosed with PTSD.

A bar graph comparing the number of PTSD cases between men and women.

Symptoms Of Post-traumatic Stress Disorder

You must consult a professional for a diagnosis of PTSD, but you can learn the symptoms. Symptoms can begin as late as three months after the traumatic event, and must last for more than a month to be diagnosed with PTSD.

PTSD symptoms can appear in different ways:

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Reliving the Event

This can include bad dreams, memories the person can't shake, and flashbacks to the event.

Thoughts of the event keep occurring no matter how hard someone tries to stop them.

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The person might stay away from places, objects, or people that remind them of event.

Being reminded of the event can cause them to be overwhelmed by symptoms of PTSD.

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Cognition and Mood

The person might not be able to remember the event clearly.

They might also feel depressed or "numb" about the event, or blame themselves for it happening.

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The person might feel "on edge" or hyper-vigilant.

They might be easily startled, show outward signs of anger, or have difficulty sleeping.

Who Might Be Experiencing PTSD?

A woman with a head covering staring out of a window. She looks sad. Photo by Muhammad Ruqi Yaddin on Unsplash

It’s been almost a year, but Fatema is still having difficulty sleeping after witnessing the news footage of an African American being abused by police. She now avoids the news.

A sad, young man looks directly at the camera. Photo by Joel Wyncott on Unsplash

Dennis escaped his house fire unharmed, but he lost all his belongings. It’s been a month, but he keeps having bad dreams of the event. He feels numb and thinks he may be depressed.

A sad, young woman looking off into the distance. Photo by Tess on Unsplash

Three months after a near-fatal car accident, Jennifer refuses to drive and takes the city bus to run errands. Once when a car backfired, she froze in place, terrified. She has flashbacks of the accident.


Which of the following people might be experiencing PTSD?

Take Action

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If you or a loved one has experienced any of the following symptoms for more than a month, please see a medical professional. You or your loved one may have PTSD.


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