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What is PTSD, and who develops PTSD?

What is PTSD, and who develops PTSD? 

You may be surprised to learn that having a traumatic experience is very common. Around 70% of adults in the U.S. will experience at least one traumatic event in their lifetime. Traumatic experiences can come in many forms, and those that can lead to PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder) include exposure to actual or threatened death, sexual violence, or severe injury either by direct exposure, witnessing the event, or learning that the event happened to a loved one. 

It may come as a surprise, but experiencing symptoms of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) following a traumatic event is quite common and expected. Difficulties in focusing, relaxation, sleep disturbance, intrusive memories, and avoidance of trauma reminders are just a few examples of what one might experience. Typically, for most individuals, a majority of these symptoms tend to clear up within a month. As we engage in conversations with others about the traumatic event, reflect on our experiences, and gradually resume our daily routines, our brains naturally embark on a healing journey. However, it is essential to acknowledge that sometimes these symptoms persist, indicating a disruption in the healing process. This persistent condition is known as Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), a complex and nuanced psychological response to traumatic experiences.

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Who Develops PTSD? 

PTSD can affect anybody who has experienced a trauma. It's important to note that most people who share a trauma will not develop the diagnosis. Research has shown that several factors make a person more likely to develop PTSD. Gender is one of those factors - about 8% of women and 4% of males will experience PTSD (more research is needed to understand PTSD prevalence in non-binary and transgender populations). Additionally, the type of trauma experienced by an individual can significantly influence the likelihood of developing post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Traumas that are repeated or prolonged, resulting in physical injury or causing a dissociative reaction, are more likely to have a lasting impact and contribute to the development of PTSD. However, it is essential to note that there is currently no foolproof way to predict or prevent the onset of PTSD. This is because each person's unique identity, background, genetic makeup, and specific traumatic experience all influence how they react and respond to a traumatic event. The complexity of PTSD underscores the importance of personalized approaches in understanding and addressing this debilitating condition.


The good news is that effective PTSD treatment options are available. These treatments aim to alleviate symptoms, bringing relief to those affected by trauma. For some individuals, successful treatment results in the complete elimination of symptoms. Others may experience a significant reduction in symptoms, allowing them to resume their normal daily activities with ease. According to the American Psychological Association (APA), recommended therapeutic approaches for trauma treatment include prolonged exposure therapy, cognitive processing therapy, and cognitive behavioral therapy. Moreover, the APA has also conditionally recommended eye movement desensitization and reprocessing therapy as an additional treatment option. Implementing these evidence-based therapies can provide individuals with a range of choices for their healing journey.


Several therapists at Shoreside are trained and experienced in trauma recovery and can help you decide which may be the best fit for you. Call today to set up a free 15-minute phone consultation.

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Evan Johnson, MSW, LCSW

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Evan Johnson, MSW, LCSW

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