-- Question: What are the symptoms of posttraumatic stress disorder?
Answer: Posttraumatic stress disorder, or PTSD, refers to a condition suffered by individuals who've experienced a major traumatic event. Something horrific has happened to them that involves a threat of loss of life or severe bodily harm, either to themselves or to a loved one, or witnessing such an event. So these could include things like being in a horrific car accident, or being mugged or raped or assaulted, or being in combat situations.
People who've had PTSD develop a series of symptoms, which might include things like re-experiencing or flashbacks, so they'll suddenly feel like they're back in the traumatic situation again. So a car will backfire, and they'll suddenly feel like they're back in a combat situation, for instance. They may have nightmares repeatedly about the event. They may start to withdraw from family or friends, develop depression, lose the basic sense of optimism that many of us walk around with, and, in addition, they may develop symptoms like irritability and sleep disturbance.
It turns out that PTSD is, unfortunately, a lot more common than we originally thought in the general population. So somewhere around 50 or 60 percent of Americans experience a trauma at some point in their life, and maybe a quarter to a third of them go on to have persistent difficulties that are characterized by PTSD.