Posttraumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)

  • Medical Author:
    Roxanne Dryden-Edwards, MD

    Dr. Roxanne Dryden-Edwards is an adult, child, and adolescent psychiatrist. She is a former Chair of the Committee on Developmental Disabilities for the American Psychiatric Association, Assistant Professor of Psychiatry at Johns Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore, Maryland, and Medical Director of the National Center for Children and Families in Bethesda, Maryland.

  • Medical Editor: Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD
    Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD

    Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD

    Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD, is a U.S. board-certified Anatomic Pathologist with subspecialty training in the fields of Experimental and Molecular Pathology. Dr. Stöppler's educational background includes a BA with Highest Distinction from the University of Virginia and an MD from the University of North Carolina. She completed residency training in Anatomic Pathology at Georgetown University followed by subspecialty fellowship training in molecular diagnostics and experimental pathology.

Quiz: Can You Reverse PTSD?

What are the effects of PTSD?

Although not all individuals who have been traumatized develop PTSD, there can be significant physical consequences of being traumatized. For example, research indicates that people who have been exposed to an extreme stressor sometimes have a smaller hippocampus (a region of the brain that plays a role in memory) than people who have not been exposed to trauma. This is significant in understanding the effects of trauma in general and the impact of PTSD, specifically since the hippocampus is the part of the brain that is thought to have an important role in developing new memories about life events. Also, whether or not a traumatized person goes on to develop PTSD, they seem to be at risk for higher use of cigarettes, alcohol, and marijuana. Conversely, people whose PTSD is treated also tend to have better success at overcoming a substance-abuse problem.

Untreated PTSD can have devastating, far-reaching consequences for sufferers' functioning and relationships, their families, and for society. Complications of PTSD in women who are pregnant include having other emotional problems, poor health behaviors, and memory problems. Women who were sexually abused at earlier ages are more likely to develop complex PTSD and borderline personality disorder. Babies who are born to mothers who suffer from this illness during pregnancy are more likely to experience a change in at least one chemical in their body that makes it more likely (predisposes) the baby to develop PTSD later in life. Individuals who suffer from this illness are at risk of having more medical problems, as well as trouble reproducing. Emotionally, PTSD sufferers may struggle more to achieve as good an outcome from mental-health treatment as that of people with other emotional problems. In children and teens, PTSD can have significantly negative effects on their social and emotional development, as well as on their ability to learn.

Economically, PTSD can have significant consequences as well. As of 2005, more than 200,000 veterans were receiving disability compensation for this illness, at a cost of $4.3 billion. This represents an 80% increase in the number of military people receiving disability benefits for PTSD and an increase of 149% in the amount of disability benefits paid compared to those numbers five years earlier.

Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 11/11/2015
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  • Posttraumatic Stress Disorder - Effective Treatments

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  • Posttraumatic Stress Disorder - Symptoms

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