What Is Posttraumatic Stress Disorder?

Posttraumatic stress disorder (or PTSD) is a common reaction to very stressful or traumatic events. Many different kinds of events can lead to PTSD, including being in a car accident; being raped or being the victim of another crime; being physically or sexually abused; living through a disaster such as a flood or a bombing; or seeing someone else die. People with PTSD have three main types of problems or symptoms:

1. Reliving the trauma. This can include memories that seem out of control, nightmares, and flashbacks that make people feel as if they are living the event allover again. Memories often come back when something people see or hear reminds them of the event.

2. Avoiding. Because it is upsetting to remember what happened, people with PTSD try not to think about it. They also stay away from people, places, or things that bring back memories. Often they feel numb or detached from other people. Some turn to alcohol or drugs to dull the pain.

3. Signs of physical stress. These can include trouble sleeping, feeling irritable or angry all the time, trouble concentrating, and feeling tense or on guard.