Get the Facts About PTSD


Each year, about 5.2 million Americans deal with PTSD. At some point in life, about 7 to 8 percent of the population experiences this disorder, which causes sufferers to relive the thoughts and feelings associated with a traumatic event.

Traumas that may cause PTSD

During a traumatic event, a person may fear for his life and feel helpless and without control over the circumstances. These scary events include:

  • Military combat: Time spent in war zones is a common source of PTSD, and about 30% of people with combat exposure will subsequently deal with the disorder. On top of that, 20-25% more may experience partial PSTD.

  • Sexual assault: Survivors of rape and other sexual assaults are more likely than the general population to experience PTSD.

  • Abuse: Both physical and sexual abuse can trigger PTSD. In fact, research shows that childhood abuse can lead to genetic changes that affect the type of PTSD that later develops.

  • Violence: In addition to physical assaults, neighborhood violence, school shootings and terrorist attacks are also precursors to PTSD.

  • Accidents and natural disasters: Car crashes, fires, floods, earthquakes, hurricanes, tornadoes and other such catastrophes have also been associated with PTSD.

Factors that influence PTSD

PTSD occurs after experiencing a trauma, but not everyone who goes through a traumatic experience will experience PTSD. While 60 percent of men and 50 percent of women deal with a traumatic event at some point in their lives, only about 10 percent of women and 4 percent of men go on to experience PTSD. Factors that influence the development of PTSD include:

  • The length and severity of the trauma.

  • Feelings during and immediately after the event, such as a sense of helplessness or a fear of being hurt.

  • The extent of injuries suffered.

  • Direct involvement in the trauma as either a victim or a witness.

  • Previous or recent life experiences, such as childhood abuse or an unexpected death.

  • The amount of family and social support the person has.

Children and PTSD

Even children can experience PTSD. In some youths, it stems from living through a personal trauma. For example, PTSD may be found in children and adolescents who have dealt with a serious illness, have been abused or have lived through a natural disaster. However, PTSD may also arise in children who watch a parent other caregiver go through a traumatic event, as in the case of children who are exposed to domestic violence at home, or even to children who only hear about such things happening to their loved ones.

Learn more about PTSD on WebPsychology. If you or someone you know may be dealing with PTSD, consult the article How Do I Know If I’m Suffering from PTSD? and seek a therapist or professional counselor.