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Do You Know How Long PTSD Lasts?


You served in the Army 10 years ago and are still haunted by flashbacks. A close friend survived a tragic car accident and hasn’t gotten behind the wheel in years. You both lose sleep, avoid things that serve as reminders, and are constantly watching for danger. You may have PTSD.



Trauma — such as an accident, attack, military warfare, or natural disaster — “can have lasting effects on a person’s mental health. While many people will have short-term responses to life-threatening events, some will develop longer term symptoms that can lead to post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) diagnosis. PTSD symptoms often coexist with other conditions such as substance use disorders, depression, and anxiety. A comprehensive medical evaluation resulting in an individualized treatment plan is optimal.”



PTSD symptoms are grouped as criteria in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders:

  • Re-experiencing symptoms, being reminded of the traumatic occurrence, and experiencing that fear again.
  • Avoidance symptoms, involving attempts to avoid circumstances or people who launch memories of what took place.
  • Arousal and reactivity symptoms, which means you could be jittery or constantly on the watch for danger.
  • Cognition and mood symptoms, consisting of destructive changes in feelings and beliefs.



  • Acute stress disorder has PTSD-like symptoms but happens inside the first month after exposure to trauma. Like PTSD, it requires prompt treatment and social support to manage its symptoms.
  • Secondary Traumatic Stress is the emotional coercion that happens when you hear of the personal trauma experiences.
  • Reactive Attachment Disorder is diagnosed in children who don’t form the critical bond with parents and caregivers.
  • Disinhibited Social Engagement Disorder is when a child fails to make emotional attachments with a parent or caregiver and would leave with nearly anyone in many circumstances, including strangers.
  • Various Adjustment Disorders.



PTSD in history

Mental health conditions like PTSD aren’t anything new. They have a long, painful history that extends hundreds – if not thousands – of years into our past. The most notable early references are related to military heroes or battles. One of the earliest hints of a PTSD-like condition is from the Bible, Deuteronomy 20:1-9. It also pops up in the saga of Gilgamesh, written by Herodotus, in 440 B.C., and many other works of literature.

Lasting impact years after the trauma 

PTSD is an insidious, severe condition whose symptoms can last a lifetime. According to the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, “Many older Veterans find they have PTSD symptoms even 50 or more years after their wartime experience. Some symptoms of PTSD include having nightmares or feeling like you are reliving the event, avoiding situations that remind you of the event, being easily startled, and loss of interest in activities.” But the symptoms can be managed.

Causes of PTSD

PTSD ignores age and gender and is directly related to trauma exposure, but only a tiny percentage of people exposed to trauma will develop any symptoms. The “why” isn’t yet well known, but we recognize that risk factors can boost a person’s likelihood of getting PTSD. Risk factors can include previous experiences of trauma, but social support is a critical ingredient in building resilience. This is a research topic worth more attention.

First diagnosis & the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders

In 1980, the American Psychiatric Association added PTSD to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-III) of its nosologic classification scheme, based on research by many pioneering mental health professionals. “Although controversial when first introduced, the PTSD diagnosis has filled an important gap in psychiatric theory and practice.”

Finding support

If you suffer from posttraumatic stress disorder, it’s critical to find a reliable support network to help you navigate its symptoms and maintain control of your life. There are U.S. federal resources available and other national organizations, local groups, and many faith-based communities worth looking into for help.



Like many mental health disorders, PTSD is best diagnosed by a doctor or mental health professional specializing in such conditions. Diagnosis, based on criteria in the DSM-5, involves typically a medical and/or psychiatric examination. Both are critical in uncovering the source of PTSD symptoms and will influence treatment decisions.

In some cases, a doctor may recommend ketamine infusion therapy to manage symptoms. Other popular options include psychotherapy, self-help, particular medicine, or support groups.



PTSD is a severe mental health condition that can last a lifetime. But even with its most dangerous symptoms, many people live healthy, productive lives. How? By confronting their symptoms and seeking professional help. Ask your doctor about treatment options, which may include psychotherapy and other solutions like ketamine infusion.

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