Question: If I was exposed to a serious traumatic event am I more likely to develop an anxiety disorder?
Answer: When talking about the reaction to traumatic events, the first concern would be posttraumatic stress disorder, or PTSD. PTSD involves three major areas of symptoms. One is re-experiencing the traumatic event through nightmares or flashbacks. Two is avoiding situations that remind the person of the event, and third is general level of heightened arousal. And research has found that symptoms in these areas are part of the normal reaction to trauma.
And if measured right after trauma, a large proportion of people would have symptoms of posttraumatic stress disorder. But over time, months to a year, these symptoms tend to decrease. And so those that have posttraumatic stress disorders continue to have those symptoms at a high level that are interfering with their ability to enjoy or participate in life.
And so experiencing a traumatic event certainly puts someone at increased risk for an anxiety disorder. But, in general, those symptoms decrease after the trauma. And it's only a small percentage of people who experience a trauma that continue to have difficulties with the anxiety over an extended period of time.