Learn more about PTSD

What is a Traumatic Event?


Psychologically traumatic events are emotionally overwhelming situations that involve feelings of intense fear, helplessness, horror, or numbness. These events typically involve threats to life or serious injury. In some instances, the survivor of trauma may witness a horrifying event rather than being directly injured or threatened with injury. Many individuals have been exposed to multiple traumatic events over many years. Types of events that are often cause traumatic psychological reactions include:


  • serious injury situations, such as motor vehicle accidents
  • physical and sexual assaults
  • abuse and family violence
  • accidents at work or home
  • crime victimization, including mugging, assault, robbery, shooting
  • military and other war-related experiences
  • responding to emergency situations (e.g., police, firefighters, EMS)
  • natural disasters such as fires, floods, hurricanes, and earthquakes
  • being diagnosed with a life-threatening illness


What is PTSD?


PTSD stands for Posttraumatic Stress Disorder. Although most people will recover gradually from the physical and psychological effects of a traumatic event, some will not. Reactions to traumatic events vary considerably, ranging from relatively mild reactions that create minor disruptions, to severe and debilitating reactions that interfere with most aspects of daily living. In the majority of people, symptoms of PTSD disappear gradually over the first few weeks or months after the traumatic event. In some cases, the symptoms of PTSD may not appear for months, or even years, after a traumatic event. It is very common for people with PTSD to experience fear, anxiety, irritability, sleep problems, depression, feeling jumpy, and a sense of personal or social disconnection. PTSD sufferers can be plagued by memories of their experiences in nightmares and repetitive thoughts when they are reminded of the traumatic event. Often traumatic events involve many losses in a person’s life.


Are there Effective Treatments for PTSD?


There are a number of treatments that are available for PTSD, but only a few that have received support for their effectiveness in scientific studies. Unfortunately, many people with PTSD do not receive the proper diagnosis of their condition. Even with the correct diagnosis, treatments that work for reducing PTSD symptoms are not widely available. Specialized training in the area of psychological trauma is required in order to provide treatments that are likely to be effective in reducing symptoms. PTSD treatments that have received the most support for their effectiveness include:


  • prolonged exposure therapy (PE)
  • cognitive and behavioural therapies (CBTs)
  • eye movement desensitization and reprocessing (EMDR)


No single treatment may be completely effective. Often it requires a combination of these and other techniques to help individuals reduce their symptoms and return to their normal lives.