Senior Man Sitting Caressing His Hands
Preventive Care

What You Need to Know about PTSD

Wherever there are people there is the potential to suffer trauma. You may witness it, be a victim of it, or have a family member experience it. The pandemic has been traumatic for millions of people who have gotten sick, lost jobs, and lost loved ones.

One of the possible results is post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). It is a mental health disorder triggered most often by either witnessing or experiencing a terrifying event.

It is often associated with combat veterans. But you don’t have to be a soldier, sailor, or Marine to suffer from PTSD.

By the Numbers

The trauma that can lead to PTSD is not as rare as you might imagine. Neither is PTSD. About 60% of men and 50% of women will experience at least one trauma in their lifetime.

Women are more likely to experience child sexual abuse while growing up, or sexual assault. Men are more likely to experience assaults, combat, accidents, or to witness death or injury according to the National Center for PTSD.

In the United States:

  • 6% of the population will have PTSD at some point
  • 12 million adults have PTSD during any given year
  • 8% of women develop PTSD some time in their lives
  • 4% of men develop PTSD at some time

When It Happens

Not everyone who has PTSD has suffered a dangerous event, or even witnessed one. Suddenly losing a loved one can have a similar effect. Symptoms usually happen within three months of the triggering event and don’t last more than a month.

If they last longer than a month and are severe enough to interfere with work or relationships, it could be a sign of post-traumatic stress disorder. It is important to see a psychiatrist or psychologist if you think you are suffering from PTSD.

Woman By the Window Thinking


There are typically four types of symptoms:

1. Intrusive memories — This could include unwanted memories of the event, flashbacks, nightmares, severe emotional distress, or physical reactions to something that reminds you of the event.

2. Avoidance — This could include avoiding people, places, or activities that remind you of the event, or not talking or even thinking about the event.

3. Negative changes in mood and thinking — This includes feelings of hopelessness, memory problems, feelings of detachment, lack of interest in favorite activities, emotional numbness, negative thoughts about yourself, the world, or others, difficult experiencing positive emotions.

4. Changes in emotional and physical reactions — Also called arousal symptoms, this could include guilt or shame, being easily startled or frightened, trouble sleeping, trouble concentrating, angry outbursts, aggressive behavior, self-destructive behavior, constantly on guard for danger.

Children six years old and younger may re-enact the traumatic event or parts of it through play. They may also have frightening dreams that could include aspects of the event.

Man Talks to Doctor About How He is Feeling

What to Do

Some people may not experience PTSD for years while others experience it right away. Symptoms may be stronger when you’re generally stressed or reminded of what happened either by a sound, smell, location, or situation.

Reach out to a mental health professional, loved one, or close friend if you have suicidal thoughts or are thinking of harming yourself. You can also call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK and speak with a trained counselor.

AltaMed Is Here to Help

AltaMed’s experienced Behavioral Health team is staffed with licensed clinical social workers who speak English and Spanish and are trained to help you cope with life’s stressors. Short-term therapy is available, and we can connect members with mental health services if long-term therapy or other support is needed. If you or a loved one have experienced trauma and need support, there are resources available to you. Call us at (855) 425-1777 to get started.

Get started with AltaMed

See how AltaMed Health Services can help your family grow healthy.

Learn More

What You Need to Know about PTSD