Posttraumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) is a mental disorder that can develop after a person is exposed to a traumatic event, such as sexual assault, warfare, traffic collisions, child abuse, or other threats on a person’s life. Symptoms may include disturbing thoughts, feelings, or dreams related to the events, mental or physical distress to trauma-related cues, attempts to avoid trauma-related cues, alterations in how a person thinks and feels, and an increase in the fight-or-flight response. These symptoms last for more than a month after the event. A person with PTSD is at a higher risk for suicide and intentional self-harm.
Most people who experience traumatic events do not develop PTSD. People who experience interpersonal trauma such as rape or child abuse are more likely to develop PTSD as compared to people who experience non-assault based trauma, such as accidents and natural disasters. About half of people develop PTSD following rape. Children are less likely than adults to develop PTSD after trauma, especially if they are under 10 years of age. Diagnosis is based on the presence of specific symptoms following a traumatic event.
Prevention may be possible when counselling is targeted at those with symptoms. The main treatments for people with PTSD are counselling (psychotherapy) and medication. Benefits from medication are less than those seen with counseling.