PTSD does exist. It is a recognized mental health problem that has
been studied for many years. You may get PTSD if you have lived through a
traumatic event that caused you to fear for your life, see horrible things, and
feel helpless. Strong emotions caused by the event create changes in the brain
that may result in PTSD.1
PTSD has not always had the same name. It also has been called
combat fatigue or shell shock.
Myth: Only soldiers or people in war zones get PTSD.
Anyone who sees or goes through a traumatic event can develop PTSD.
A traumatic event is a horrible and scary experience. During this type of
event, you think that your life or others' lives are in danger. You feel that
you have no control over what is happening. These events include violent
crimes, sexual assaults, childhood neglect or abuse, and natural disasters such as hurricanes or
earthquakes. Your job also could expose you to traumatic events. First
responders at a traumatic event, such as firefighters and police, can develop
Myth: You should be able to move on after a traumatic event.
The strong emotions you may feel during the traumatic event can
create changes in your brain that result in PTSD.1 You
may not be able to "move on" because of this. It's important to remember that
PTSD is a medical condition. People with other health conditions, such as
cancer, deal with the condition as best they can. The same is true for PTSD.
Myth: PTSD always happens right after the traumatic event.
PTSD symptoms can develop at any time after a traumatic event. Your
symptoms may start soon after the event, or you may not have them until months
or years later. They may come and go over many years.
Myth: People with PTSD cannot function.
PTSD can cause severe symptoms, but counseling, medicines, and
support all help people adjust. People with PTSD have jobs and relationships.
They enjoy life and are active members of their communities.
Hollander E, Simeon D (2008). Anxiety disorders. In RE
Hales, ST Yudofsky, eds., Textbook of Clinical Psychiatry, 5th ed., pp. 565–607. Washington, DC: American Psychiatric
How this information was developed to help you make better health decisions.