How is Civilian PTSD (also known as Non-Combat PTSD) different from the PTSD we most often hear about related to military combat? The reality is, it's the same disease, the same symptoms, the same debilitating condition. The precipitating traumas, specific symptoms and severity of symptoms may be different, but millions of both veterans and civilians live with PTSD. Individuals may develop Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder when they experience, witness or learn about an event involving actual or threatened death, sexual violation, or serious injury. Non-Combat PTSD can affect all ages, genders, income levels, ethnicities and lifestyles.

Women are especially at risk of PTSD; one out of every nine women develops Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, about twice the average of men.


Qualifying events include but are not limited to: domestic abuse and violence, childhood physical and emotional abuse and neglect, natural disasters, rape and sexual assault, crime, physical violence, being threatened with a weapon, transportation accidents, witnessing violence or death, traumatic death of a close friend or family member, exposure to suicide, kidnapping, imprisonment, war and terrorism, or other risks or perceived risks of serious injury or loss of life.

While military survivors and the medical community have fought long and hard for recognition of the realities of combat-related PTSD, awareness of ordinary citizen non-combat PTSD lags far behind.

How have veterans with PTSD helped non-combat civilians with PTSD? It is thanks to military veterans and dedicated researchers that PTSD has finally received broad recognition. For decades, brave veterans pushed for recognition and treatment, and spoke out about the intense struggle of PTSD. Finally, In 1980, the American Psychiatric Association (APA) added PTSD to the third edition of its Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-III). Today, the media focus on veterans returning from Afghanistan and Iraq with PTSD has greatly increased the awareness among the general population. New research is being conducted, largely funded by the Department of Defense. Awareness is growing for our nation's combat veterans with PTSD. But more needs to be done; these veterans stand alongside millions of ordinary civilians with PTSD. We stand together.

By integrating veterans with PTSD alongside civilians with non-combat PTSD, the support community grows, understanding grows, and society at large will grow in acceptance and compassion for these injured individuals. 

How can civilians with PTSD help veterans with PTSD? With the primary spotlight on military PTSD, this leaves many veterans and the public to assume war veterans comprise the majority of cases of PTSD. In fact, millions of ordinary Americans and people all around the world are living with Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder. Many veterans struggle to integrate back into society upon returning home from combat; they may feel misunderstood and that "no one could possibly understand how I'm feeling without having experienced the horrors of war." However, these veterans are coming back into a society where as many as 5-8% of their fellow citizens experience similar challenges after experiencing a variety of qualifying traumas.

Did you know? New Federal Legislation Ignores PTSD Toll on Civilians - a study done by Jonathan Purtle, DrPH, an assistant professor at the Drexel University School of Public Health has found that, "Federal laws explicitly addressing post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) have overwhelmingly focused on the needs of military personnel and veterans, according to a new analysis published in the Journal of Traumatic Stress."

As Rachel Ewing stated in DrexelNOW, "This emphasis does not match with the frequency of PTSD in the U.S. population."

According to Purtle's research, in new federal legislation introduced to increase awareness of PTSD, more than 90% of the mentions of PTSD exclusively targeted and mentioned military personnel. Further, the language used in the bill to create a National PTSD Awareness Day describes PTSD as a "wound of war," and does not acknowledge the toll of PTSD among ordinary citizens.

Civilian PTSD Resources