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March 8, 2022

Understanding Post Traumatic Stress Disorder

Adapted by WGU from WellConnect

Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is a mental health condition that can develop after someone experiences or witnesses a traumatic event. PTSD might be more common than you realize. According to the National Center for PTSD, 50% of women and 60% of men will experience trauma at some point during their lives, and about 8 million adults develop PTSD each year. However, not everyone who lives through a trauma develops PTSD.

How PTSD Develops

Often people associate PTSD with military combat experience, but there are many other events that can lead to the condition. These include childhood abuse, sexual violence, physical assault, an accident, or natural disaster.

Other stressful situations could potentially lead to someone developing PTSD, such as the loss of a loved one or working in a profession that exposes someone to traumatic situations, such as a police officer, first responder, or healthcare worker. What do all these situations have in common? They trigger a stress response in the person’s brain, leading to the release of certain hormones. Some people have a more difficult time than others returning to their baseline level of functioning, and instead, they remain in a state of constant stress.

Signs and Symptoms

It is normal to feel a range of emotions after living through a traumatic event, and most people need some time to adjust and cope with what has happened. However, for those who develop PTSD, they start to experience significant symptoms that interfere with daily functioning, which last for more than one month.

Understanding Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder

Typically, the condition is apparent within three months of the traumatic event. By being aware of the signs and symptoms of PTSD, you could ensure you get yourself or loved ones the necessary help rather than suffering in silence. Some common symptoms include:

  • Intrusive memories or flashbacks of the event, avoidant behaviors, negative cognitive changes.
  • Emotional decline, difficulty sleeping and concentrating, aggressive behavior, and lack of self-care.


Not everyone who experiences or witnesses a traumatic event will develop PTSD. By being knowledgeable about the condition and seeking support, you can help reduce your risk of it developing. Here are some protective tools to help you manage and cope with stressful situations:

  • Reach out to family and friends for support. Do not try to manage your emotions alone.
  • Seek professional counseling for additional support. A counselor can help you process the stressful situation and strengthen your coping tools.
  • Take time to sit with your thoughts and feelings, which can help with the healing process. Try journaling or meditation. Consider what you can learn or take away from the stressful experience, such as becoming a more resilient person or a reminder to not take life for granted.
  • Focus on incorporating healthy coping methods into your daily life, such as connecting with others, getting plenty of sleep, eating healthy foods, and overall self-care.

Are you a current WGU student? Access WellConnect now through your WGU student portal.

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