Who is at risk for post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)?

Anyone who has suffered through a traumatic event that causes fear and powerlessness, their risk for post-traumatic stress disorder can increase. With time and treatment, these feelings can diminish or disappear. Without help, the memories of the event can continue to escalate and begin to overwhelm their life. Flashbacks, nightmares, anger, guilt, shame, and memory problems are just a few of the symptoms that can come and go.
Anyone who has experienced or witnessed a frightening, life-threatening event can develop post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Military combat veterans, accident victims, people who have survived a natural disaster, rape victims, and children who have been abused can all be subject to PTSD. Even if you were not personally hurt during a traumatic event, seeing others get hurt or killed can lead you to experience PTSD.

Some people are more likely than others to suffer from PTSD. Certain risk factors that are present in the individual before the event can affect how they respond to the event. People who have lived through multiple traumatic events, those who have a history of mental illness, those without strong social support, and those who have also experienced financial or emotional stresses unrelated to the event, may be more at risk for developing PTSD.

PTSD can happen to anyone at any age. Children get PTSD too.

You don't have to be physically hurt to get PTSD. You can get it after you see other people, such as a friend or family member, get hurt.

This answer is based on source information from the National Institute of Mental Health.

Dr. Mehmet Oz, MD
Cardiology (Cardiovascular Disease)
People who have traumatic experiences on the job are at a higher risk of having post-traumatic stress disorder.

Watch as police officer Frank Chiafari, Dr. Oz, and I discuss who's most at risk for post-traumatic stress disorder in this video.
Dr. Michael Roizen, MD
Internal Medicine
Anyone who has experienced a traumatic event involving the threat of injury or death may have symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder (sometimes referred to as PTSD). It's called a disorder because it changes, or disorders, how certain hormones and brain chemicals (called neurotransmitters) carry information and respond to stress. Not everyone who has a similar experience will react the same way. Whether you develop post-traumatic stress disorder depends on your genetic predispositions, your social situation (isolation makes it harder to process the event), and your physical health going into the trauma.

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.