PTSD is an anxiety disorder that can occur after a person experiences or witnesses a violent or frightening event. Not everyone who experiences trauma, however, goes on to develop PTSD symptoms. Your doctor may be able to give you a PTSD test or questionnaire if you think you might have developed this condition.
Common PTSD sufferers include disaster and abuse survivors. Soldiers who see combat may also develop post-traumatic stress disorder. PTSD in children may emerge after a child experiences a parental death, abuse or lives through a disaster.
PTSD Risk Factors
Experiencing a traumatic event is the primary PTSD risk factor. However, other factors influence post-traumatic stress onset. One theory is that a vulnerability to PTSD may exist in some families. Other factors that increase the risk of post-traumatic stress disorder include:
- Being a child or adolescent
- Being female
- Duration of the traumatic event (longer trauma puts people at higher risk for PTSD)
- Experiencing violence at home
- Having a learning disability
- Having a mental disorder prior to the traumatic event
- Lacking social support.
PTSD and Violence
PTSD and violence often go hand in hand. PTSD in military service members occurs so often that military names for the condition have existed since the U.S. Civil War, when it was called “soldier’s heart.” During World War I, PTSD was called “combat fatigue,” and by the Vietnam era, it was referred to as “shell shock.”
Rates of PTSD are particularly high in Vietnam veterans, with the National Institute of Mental Health (2010) estimating that about 19 percent of Vietnam vets developed PTSD after the war. In spite of its extensive history, PTSD was only formally established as a distinct anxiety disorder in 1980.
Women and Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder
Women are four times more likely than men to develop PTSD symptoms, according to the Mayo Clinic (2010). The reason for this isn’t entirely clear. Many experts believe, however, it’s because women are more likely to experience interpersonal violence, such as rape, putting them at risk for PTSD.
PTSD in Children and Teens
Post-traumatic stress disorder in children is not uncommon. Of children who have been exposed to trauma, 3 percent to 15 percent of girls, and 1 percent to 6 percent of boys, will develop PTSD, according to National Center for PTSD (2007).
PTSD in children and adolescents is especially common when violence or abuse is a factor. Up to 100 percent of children who witness the death or sexual assault of a parent eventually develop PTSD, according to the National Center for PTSD (2007), as do 90 percent of sexually abused children and 77 percent who witness a school shooting.
Dryden-Edwards, R. (2010). Posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Retrieved June 23, 2010, from: http://www.medicinenet.com/posttraumatic_stress_disorder/article.htm.
Mayo Clinic. (2010). Post-traumatic stress disorder: Risk factors. Retrieved June 25, 2010 from: http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/post-traumatic-stress-disorder/DS00246/DSECTION=risk-factors.
National Center for PTSD. (2007). PTSD in children and teens.Retrieved June 25, 2010 from: http://www.ptsd.va.gov/public/pages/ptsd-children-adolescents.asp.
National Institute of Mental Health. (2010). The numbers count: Mental disorders in American. Retrieved June 25, 2010 from: http://www.nimh.nih.gov/health/publications/the-numbers-count-mental-disorders-in-america/index.shtml â€” PTSD.