Posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is a mental health condition that can develop after exposure to a traumatic event. Many individuals with PTSD repeatedly re-experience the ordeal as flashback episodes, memories, nightmares, or frightening thoughts, especially when exposed to events that remind them of the trauma. Other symptoms of PTSD include persistent avoidance of stimuli, negative alterations in cognitions and mood, and marked alterations in arousal and reactivity all associated with the traumatic event. PTSD is often comorbid with and shares symptoms common to other conditions, such as substance use disorders, depression, anxiety, chronic health conditions, and sleep difficulties.
Symptoms usually develop following a traumatic event, although PTSD with ‘delayed expression’ can occur where full diagnosis is not met until at least six months after the trauma. In DoD, 5 to 20 percent of the more than 2.6 million service members who deployed in support of Operation Enduring Freedom/Operation Iraqi Freedom/Operation New Dawn have or may develop symptoms of PTSD according to 2009 estimates.* [ Reference 4 ] According to the latest data available, 32,704 or 2.2 percent of patients in the Military Health System have a diagnosis of PTSD. [ Reference 5 ] PTSD is treatable and many service members recover with appropriate treatment.
* These numbers vary widely depending on sampling procedures.