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Hope for Recovery: Understanding Posttraumatic Stress Disorder

NCJ Number
Date Published
9 pages
Designed to help laypersons understand the nature and treatment of posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD), this booklet discusses its causes, symptoms, diagnosis, treatment options, and how family and friends can help in recovery from PTSD.
PTSD is generally the result of a life-threatening or life-changing event or series of events that are so distressing or cruel that the memory and psychological impact do not fade, thus posing a debilitating mental condition. Victims and survivors of various types of violent or emotionally abusive crimes often suffer from PTSD. Some of the symptoms of PTSD are sudden memories that constitute a reliving of the traumatic event, detachment from loved ones, avoiding reminders of the event, and being on guard or "hyper-aroused." Other symptoms can include depression, panic disorder, chronic physical problems, and self-destructive behavior (alcohol or drug abuse and suicidal tendencies). A diagnosis of PTSD may be considered if a certain number of these symptoms have lasted for 1 month or longer and are debilitating for family and work interactions. Treatment for PTSD can be provided by a psychiatrist, psychologist, social worker, or other qualified health care professional who provides counseling related to trauma. If PTSD is diagnosed, there are a number of effective treatment options that can involve psychotherapy, medication, or a combination of both. Each treatment option should be discussed with a health care provider to determine what is best for the individual. Family members and friends can help by encouraging the person to seek and continue treatment, providing emotional support and listening, and being patient and realistic about expectations for recovery. Some myths and facts about PTSD are also presented. Contact information on PTSD resource organizations is provided.

Date Published: January 1, 2001