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Post-traumatic stress disorder

It's natural to be afraid when you're in danger. It's natural to be upset when something bad happens to you or someone you know. But if you feel afraid and upset weeks or months later, it's time to talk with your doctor. You might have post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

Living through or seeing something that's upsetting and dangerous can cause PTSD. This can include:

  • Being a victim of or seeing violence
  • The death or serious illness of a loved one
  • War or combat
  • Car accidents and plane crashes
  • Hurricanes, tornadoes, and fires
  • Violent crimes, like a robbery or shooting

There are many other things that can cause PTSD. Talk to your doctor if you are troubled by something that happened to you or someone you care about. Your doctor can help you find out if you have PTSD. Call your doctor if you have any of these problems:

  • Bad dreams
  • Flashbacks, or feeling like the scary event is happening again
  • Scary thoughts you can't control
  • Staying away from places and things that remind you of what happened
  • Feeling worried, guilty, or sad
  • Feeling alone
  • Trouble sleeping
  • Feeling on edge
  • Angry outbursts
  • Thoughts of hurting yourself or others

PTSD starts at different times for different people. Signs of PTSD may start soon after a frightening event and then continue. Other people develop new or more severe signs months or even years later.

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Treatment

PTSD can be treated. A doctor or mental health professional who has experience in treating people with PTSD can help you. Treatment may include "talk" therapy, medication, or both.

Treatment might take 6 to 12 weeks. For some people, it takes longer. Treatment is not the same for everyone. What works for you might not work for someone else. Drinking alcohol or using other drugs will not help PTSD go away, and may even make it worse.

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More information on Post-traumatic stress disorder

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Content last updated: March 29, 2010.

Resources last updated: March 29, 2010.

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