reviewed 10/25/2018

PTSD: True or false?

Terrifying events leave a mark. Whether it's combat, a natural disaster, a bad car accident, an abusive relationship or something else, people often feel the effects—known as post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)—long after the danger has passed. Test your knowledge about PTSD with this quiz.

True or false: You can have PTSD even if you weren't physically injured.

True. You can get PTSD after you see other people—such as a friend, a family member or even a stranger—get hurt. You can also get PTSD without witnessing a frightening or upsetting event firsthand. For example, you can develop it if you learn that someone close to you has died accidentally or violently.

True or false: Only medicine helps PTSD.

False. Both medication and therapy can help. That might include talk therapy or prolonged exposure therapy (PE). In PE, people with PTSD may talk about their trauma over and over until the memories are no longer upsetting. Relaxation techniques, thought stopping and positive self-talk also can help manage PTSD.

True or false: Early treatment is better.

True. Dealing with PTSD symptoms early on can help keep them from getting worse. So call your doctor if—for a month or more after a trauma—you're:

  • Having nightmares, flashbacks or angry outbursts.
  • Experiencing scary thoughts you can't control.
  • Feeling worries, guilty, sad or on edge.
  • Having trouble sleeping.

True or false: PTSD can't happen to children.

False. PTSD can affect anyone at any age. But it may look different in children. School-aged children may:

  • Have a heightened alertness to danger or be easily startled.
  • Be unusually clingy to a parent or other adult.
  • Reenact the scary event—in play or drawings, for example.

Children younger than 6 may also lose skills they previously learned (for example, forgetting how to talk or wetting the bed).

True or false: Only weak people get PTSD.

False. About 8 percent of all Americans will have PTSD at some point in their lifetimes, including Medal of Honor recipients in the military. Risk factors include genetics, a history of other traumas and how long a person is exposed to traumatic events.

Learn more about mental illnesses and their treatments.

Visit the Mental Health health topic center

Sources: American Psychiatric Association; Defense Centers of Excellence; National Center of PTSD; National Institutes of Health

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