PTSD: Not Just for Veterans

By: Trey Dyer

Although often thought to be a disorder that affects only combat veterans, post traumatic-stress disorder (PTSD) commonly occurs among people from all walks of life. PTSD is a disorder that develops in the wake of a traumatic event. PTSD can cause feelings of vulnerability, fear, anxiety and depression. It can be debilitating to an individual’s ability to live a normal life. While PTSD rates among veterans are high, they are also high among the general United States population.

Civilian PTSD

PTSD often stems from non-combat related traumatic events that commonly occur in everyday life. Car accidents, physical or sexual abuse, natural disasters, violent incidents or events in which people are harmed commonly cause PTSD. The trauma caused by these events can have a strong and lasting impact.

Those with PTSD experience intense emotions that can be devastating. They may experience feelings of vulnerability, extreme fear or paranoia and may even believe their life is being threatened. These feelings can negatively affect important aspects of an individual’s life, such as job performance, relationships and health. Additionally, individuals with PTSD often develop a co-occurring disorder, such as severe depression, anxiety disorders and substance use disorders.

PTSD More Common Than We Think

PTSD affects 7.7 million American adults, and one in four children or adolescents in the United States has lived through one potentially traumatic event before the age of 16. Seven to eight individuals out of every 100 will experience PTSD at some point during their lives.

In the United States, 61 percent of men and 51 percent of women have experienced at least one traumatic event during their lifetime. Of those individuals, 8.1 percent of men and 20.4 percent of women develop PTSD.

Effects of PTSD

Those with PTSD are affected in a number of ways and may experience a wide range of symptoms. Flashbacks of the trauma are common among those with PTSD and may manifest themselves in bad dreams, frightening thoughts and difficult memories.

Individuals with PTSD will often isolate themselves or avoid people, places or things that could trigger flashbacks or memories of the traumatic event. PTSD can also cause intense anxiety, constant fear, tension, feelings of restlessness, lack of sleep, irritability and anger.

Symptoms of PTSD often cause people to change their behavior or routine. Individuals with PTSD can become emotionally distant or numb, affecting their relationships with others. They may lose interest in hobbies or activities they used to enjoy or stop doing the things they liked to do before the traumatic event. Their ability to interact with others on a social level may also be affected and can cause friction in their everyday life.

Risk Factors

Not everyone who lives through a traumatic event develops PTSD. However, there are risks that increase the likelihood of developing PTSD. Some of these risks include:

1.     Being injured or experiencing pain after a traumatic event

2.     Witnessing the injury or death of another during a traumatic event

3.     Experiencing trauma during childhood

4.     Persistent feelings of horror, helplessness or extreme fear

5.     A lack of social or family support following trauma

6.     Experiencing a loss after trauma, such as the loss of a loved one, job or home

7.     Having a history of mental illness

8.     Genetic predisposition

9.     Having a history of substance abuse

Reducing the Risks of PTSD

For people who have lived through a traumatic event, the risk of developing PTSD is high. Fortunately, there are steps that can help prevent the development of PTSD.

Emotional support and comfort from family or friends can effectively stop PTSD from developing. Friends and family can provide a constant source of support and help in the aftermath of a traumatic event. They can help individuals at risk of developing PTSD learn to cope with their feelings properly.

In the absence of friends or families, support groups for individuals who have experienced a traumatic event are a great alternative. These support groups consist of individuals who are experiencing emotions and feelings similar to those brought on by PTSD. Additionally, learning to come to terms with the way one acts in the face of danger and having a coping strategy for moving past the trauma are great ways to reduce the risk of developing PTSD.

Get Help

Recovering from a traumatic event can be paralyzing for some individuals. Fortunately, there is help. Seeking out medical professionals trained to treat people with PTSD is arguably the best way for a survivor of a traumatic event to learn to move on with their life. PTSD is not a rare disorder that strikes only veterans; almost anyone can develop this debilitating disorder. Knowing the steps to take to combat it can help individuals avoid a great deal of pain and suffering.

About the Author:

Trey Dyer is a writer for and an advocate for helping individuals with co-occurring mental and substance use disorders. When Trey is not writing, he can be found fly fishing, surfing or playing indoor soccer with friends.


Cohen, H. (2013). What Causes PTSD? Retrieved from

Hazelden Publishing. (2016). Anxiety-related disorders. Retrieved from

Hudenko, W., Homaifar, B. & Wortzel, H. (2015, August 17). PTSD: National Center for PTSD. Retrieved from

PsychCentral. (2013). Types of PTSD. Retrieved from

National Institute of Mental Health. (2016, February). Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder. Retrieved from

National Institutes of Health. (2009). PTSD: A Growing Epidemic. Retrieved from

Psych Central. (2015, August 19). Posttraumatic Stress Disorder. Retrieved from

Staggs, S. (2015, August 19). Myths & Facts about PTSD. Retrieved from