People who have gone through or observed a traumatic incident, such as a natural disaster, a catastrophic accident, a terrorist attack, battle, or rape, or who have been threatened with death, sexual assault, or significant injury, may develop posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD), a psychiatric disease.
In the past, PTSD has gone by a variety of labels, including "shell shock" during World War I and "battle exhaustion" following World War II, but it does not only affect combat veterans. Any person, of any race, nation, or culture, and at any age, may experience PTSD. About 3.5 percent of American adults experience PTSD each year, and one in every 11 people will receive a diagnosis of the condition at some point in their lives. PTSD is twice as common in women as it is in men. American Indians, African Americans, and U.S. Latinos are the three ethnic groups most afflicted and have greater rates of PTSD than non-Latino whites.
Long after the horrific incident has passed, people with PTSD continue to endure intense, unsettling thoughts and sensations related to their experience. Flashbacks or dreams may cause them to relive the incident, they may experience sadness, fear, or rage, and they may feel distant or estranged from other people. A loud noise or an unintentional touch can trigger significant negative reactions in those with PTSD, who may avoid circumstances or people who remind them of the traumatic occurrence.
It takes exposure to a distressing traumatic experience for PTSD to be diagnosed. The exposure, meanwhile, could not be direct but rather indirect. For instance, a person might get PTSD after learning of the violent passing of a close relative or friend. It may also happen as a result of frequent exposure to gruesome traumatizing information, such as when police officers are exposed to child abuse case specifics.