Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)

Some examples of traumatic events that could lead to the development of PTSD are: car accidents; natural disasters such as hurricanes or earthquakes; being or physically or sexually assaulted; being emotionally, physically, or sexually abused; combat exposure; or learning about the unexpected death or injury of a loved one. 

Although not all individuals exposed to a trauma develop PTSD, some individuals experience a number of distressing psychological and physical symptoms including re-experiencing, avoidance or numbing, and hyperarousal.

Re-experiencing symptoms include: recurrent and intrusive thoughts about the event; upsetting dreams or nightmares; flashbacks to the trauma; becoming extremely upset or anxious when reminded of the trauma.

Avoidance and numbing symptoms include: avoiding thinking or talking about the trauma; avoiding places, situations or people reminiscent of the trauma; being unable to recall certain parts of what happened; losing interest in previously valued activities; feeling distant or detached from others; having difficulty experiencing strong emotions; feeling a lack of interest or hope in the future (e.g., feeling one will never have a career, get married, live to old age).

Symptoms of hyperarousal include: difficulty falling or staying asleep; feeling irritable or having outbursts of anger; difficulty concentrating; feeling hypervigilant even if there is no reason to be; and being easily startled.

In order to receive a PTSD diagnosis, symptoms must persist for at least one month and cause significant distress, interference, or impairment in work, school, or social functioning. Symptoms may last for several months, or become even more chronic. For some, PTSD symptoms emerge six months or more after the traumatic event.

Medications Available
There are a number of effective medications available to treat the symptoms of PTSD, including antidepressants and some newer anti-anxiety or mood-stabilizing medications. Many individuals with PTSD do well with treatment that includes both psychotherapy and medication. Cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT), including prolonged exposure (PE), Cognitive Processing Therapy (CPT), and Skills Training in Affect and Interpersonal Regulation (STAIR) is effective for many patients with PTSD and involve working closely with a therapist to systematically process the traumatic event, identify and modify negative thoughts that interfere with recovery from the trauma, and learn to face situations or feelings associated with the trauma. In addition, CBT helps individuals learn skills for managing difficult emotions and overcoming difficulties in interpersonal relationships.

Please explore our site to find out more about participating in a treatment study for PTSD at the Center for Anxiety and Traumatic Stress Disorders at Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston.

If you are interested in participating in a treatment study, please call 1-866-44-WORRY for our confidential phone line or email us at



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