Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) is a trauma and stress-related disorder that may develop after exposure to an event or ordeal in which death or severe physical harm occurred or was threatened. People who suffer from the disorder include military troops, rescue workers, and survivors of shootings, bombings, violence, and rape. Family members of victims can develop the disorder as well through vicarious trauma.
PTSD affects about 8 million American adults and can occur at any age, including childhood. Women are more likely to develop the disorder than men, and there is some evidence that it may run in families. PTSD is frequently accompanied by depression, substance use disorder, and anxiety disorders. When other conditions are appropriately diagnosed and treated, the likelihood of successful treatment increases.
When symptoms develop immediately after exposure and persist for up to a month, the condition may be called acute stress disorder. PTSD is diagnosed when the stress symptoms following exposure have persisted for over a month. Delayed expression of PTSD can occur if symptoms arise six months or more following the onset of trauma.
Roughly 30 percent of Vietnam veterans developed PTSD. The disorder also has been detected in as many as 10 percent of Gulf War (Desert Storm) veterans, about 6 percent to 11 percent of veterans of the Afghanistan war, and about 12 percent to 20 percent of veterans of the Iraq war. For veterans, factors related to combat may further increase the risk for PTSD and other mental health problems. These include the veteran's role in the war, the politics around the war, where it's fought, and the type of enemy faced. Another cause of PTSD in the military is military sexual trauma (MST) or sexual harassment or assault that occurs in the military. MST happens to men and women and can occur during peacetime, training, or war. Among veterans using VA health care, about 23 percent of women reported sexual assault while in the military, 55 percent of women and 38 percent of men have experienced sexual harassment when in the military.