Wednesday, April 1, 2009

PTSD Healing: PTSD U Has Officially Opened

Sometimes I wish someone would found PTSD U – a university for the study of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder symptoms, causes, effects, treatments and everyting in between!

PTSD is so vast and diverse in the population it would take the equivalent of studying for a degree to learn about the biomolecular, anthropological, civic, statistical, psychological, physiological, historical, international, social, literary and educational aspects of it. Right there you’ve got an entirely well-rounded college course curriculum!

Until a big endowment opens the doors to such a program (and gives us all scholarships to attend), we’ll have to take on the course development ourselves. Let’s start with everyone’s favorite: statistics

So, you’ve been diagnosed with PTSD. Immediately you need to know your place in the universe. Statistics help your brain visualize, categorize, and understand the group to which you now belong, which can be summarized this way on

Posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is an emotional illness that develops as a result of a terribly frightening, life-threatening, or otherwise highly unsafe experience. PTSD sufferers re-experience the traumatic event or events in some way, tend to avoid places, people, or other things that remind them of the event (avoidance), and are exquisitely sensitive to normal life experiences (hyperarousal).

Although this condition has likely existed since human beings have endured trauma, PTSD has only been recognized as a formal diagnosis since 1980. However, it was called by different names as early as the American Civil War, when combat veterans were referred to as suffering from "soldier's heart."

In World War I, symptoms that were generally consistent with PTSD were referred to as "combat fatigue." Soldiers who developed such symptoms in World War II were said to be suffering from "gross stress reaction," and many who fought in Vietnam who had symptoms of what is now called PTSD were assessed as having "post-Vietnam syndrome."

PTSD has also been called "battle fatigue" and "shell shock." Complex posttraumatic stress disorder (C-PTSD) usually results from prolonged exposure to a traumatic event or series thereof and is characterized by long-lasting problems with many aspects of emotional and social functioning.
I've pulled the following stats from a variety of articles, trauma organizations and trauma centers.

General Stats

- 70 percent of adults in the U.S. have experienced a traumatic event at least once in their lives.

- Up to 20% of these people go on to develop PTSD. (Since there’s always math in statistics, a little word problem: As of today the U.S. population count = 306,126,644. If you eliminate children and teens what’s the maximum number of people who will experience PTSD? Now, remember the number grows every day.)

- An estimated 5% of Americans – that’s 15 million people – has PTSD at any given time.

- An estimated 1 out of 10 women develops PTSD; women are about twice as likely as men.
- Among people who are victims of a severe traumatic experience 60 – 80% will develop PTSD.

- Almost 50% of all outpatient mental health patients have PTSD.

- Somewhat higher rates of this disorder have been found to occur in African Americans, Hispanics, and Native Americans compared to Caucasians in the United States.

Combat PTSD

- Lifetime occurrence (prevalence) in combat veterans 10 – 30%.

- In the past year alone the number of diagnosed cases in the military jumped 50% – and that’s just diagnosed cases.

- Studies estimate that 1 in every 5 military personnel returning from Iraq and Afghanistan has PTSD.

- 19% of the soldiers who’ve been deployed in the past 6 years has PTSD. That’s over 300,00.

- Doing the breakdown by war:

Iraq = 12 – 20% returning vets have PTSD

Afghanistan = 6 – 11% returning vets have PTSD

Children & PTSD

- As many as 30 – 60% of children who have survived specific disasters have PTSD.

- Up to 100% of all children who see a parent killed will develop PTSD.

Adolescents & PTSD

- Up to more than 40% have experienced a traumatic event.

- Development of PTSD = 15% in girls, 6% in boys

- 3 – 6% of high school students in the U.S. who survive specific disaster develop PTSD.

- More than 33% of youths exposed to community violence with experience PTSD.


The first class of any course is usually short – it gives an overview of the syllabus and then you’re supposed to read the first 4 chapters of the textbook before the next meeting.

Your homework is to dig up your own stats for the segment of the PTSD community in which you live. This can be done by a simple Google search – and then lots of reading!

When you discover statistical facts that are not listed here, leave a comment or shoot me an email. The more we pool our knowledge the more the entire PTSD community learns and heals.

(Photo: inju)

1 comment:

Elizabeth Stanfill said...

Hi Michele,

I accept the challenge, as soon as I get a chance, lol.

In my experience with critical incident stress, and all the other stresses, PTSD, is most definitely under diagnosed.

You, my dear, are PTSD U to me. :-)