Experiencing – or even witnessing – trauma can have lasting effects

Close to 1 in 11 Americans will experience PTSD in their lives

 American Psychiatric Association

What is PTSD?

Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is a mental health disorder that we’ve become more aware of in recent years, but that doesn’t mean we fully understand what it is and how it works. PTSD develops after someone witnesses or experiences a traumatic event. The event could be life-threatening, such as an accident on the highway, a shooting incident, or an assault of any kind. But other non-dangerous events can cause PTSD as well, like the illness or death of a relative.

While it’s perfectly normal to experience fear throughout our lives in reaction to most traumatic situations, what is not normal is continuing to live in this elevated state for long periods of time. PTSD can be broken down into four stages: the impact stage, the denial stage, the short-term recovery stage, and the long-term recovery stage.

Army veteran struggling with PTSD

Long-Lasting Negative Effects

When we experience something traumatic, our “fight or flight” response kicks in. Our minds send our bodies into survival mode, raising our heart rate, blood pressure, and breathing. Specific hormones are released to reduce the feeling of pain and enhance our physical capabilities so that we may hopefully get out of harm’s way in the instance of a real threat.

As you can imagine, if the body were to remain in this heightened state for an extended period of time, the effects could be damaging. If left untreated, PTSD can cause consistent feelings of anxiety and fear, leading to social isolation, low self-esteem, and even self-harm. Furthermore, it can lead to other co-occurring disorders, like depression or alcohol and drug abuse.


PTSD has a profound effect on our brave men and women in uniform. Here are some alarming stats from the US Department of Veterans Affairs:

  • 11-20% of veterans who served in Iraq and Afghanistan have reported PTSD.
  • PTSD affected 30% of Vietnam War veterans at some point in their lives.
  • 12% of Gulf War vets have PTSD during any given year.
  • Around 15-35% of soldiers that report chronic pain also report PTSD.

You don’t need to have seen combat to experience PTSD, though. It’s not even necessary to have spent time in the military. According to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America and the American Psychiatric Association, here are the PTSD numbers for the general US adult population:

  • 3.5% of adults in the United States experience PTSD.
  • Women experience PTSD at around double the rate of men.
  • Close to 1 in 11 Americans will experience PTSD in their lives.
  • Victims of rape often experience PTSD (65% of men and 45% of women).
  • Sexual abuse in childhood puts people at higher risk for developing PTSD.


If you believe you or a loved one might be experiencing PTSD, here’s what to look for:

  • Lack of interest or participation in everyday activities, avoidance
  • Everyday events triggering unpleasant memories, thoughts, or feelings associated with the traumatic event
  • Easily becoming irritable with others
  • Angry or violent outbursts, verbal or physical aggression toward others
  • Self-destructive or reckless behavior
  • Easily startled
  • Problems with concentration
  • Insomnia, nightmares, or other sleep problems
  • Frequent, intrusive memories or dreams of the traumatic event
  • Loss of specific memories surrounding the traumatic event
  • Low self-esteem or negative beliefs about self, friends, and family
  • Feeling fear, horror, anger, guilt, or shame
  • Not being able to experience positive feelings
  • Flashbacks that feel as if the traumatic event is recurring
  • Detaching or beco

Beyond Theory Podcast

In this episode, we speak with Magnus Johnson, founder of Mission 22. He details his military service, why he started his non-profit, and shares thoughts on veteran suicide and mental health issues.

PTSD Treatment at The Meadows

If you or a loved one have been diagnosed with PTSD or think that you are suffering from it, The Meadows is here to help you find relief. Our intensive outpatient facilities in Texas, Arizona, and California are equipped with highly trained mental health professionals to treat your condition. Learn more today by reaching out to our intake specialists.