Post-Traumatic Stress

What is Post-Traumatic Stress?

Post traumatic stress affects about 7.7 million American adults, age 18 or over, annually. 70% of adults in the U.S. have experienced some type of traumatic event at least once in their lives, with close to 20% of these people going on to develop PTS. An estimated 8% of Americans – 24.4 million – will experience PTS at some point in their lives.

Almost 50% of all outpatient mental health patients have PTS. 11-20% of Veterans of the Iraq and Afghanistan Wars do too. Among the people who are victims of specific traumatic experiences such as rape, child abuse and violent assaults, the rate of PTS is 60-80%.

What Are We Doing?

Knowing that the current methods of diagnosing post-traumatic stress as well as the understanding of the biological underpinnings that cause the illness remain limited, One Mind is actively supporting the recently launched AURORA study on trauma.

The AURORA study is a major national research initiative led by researchers at the University of North Carolina and Harvard that will collect and analyze data from 5,000 trauma patients over a 5-year span. The goals of the AURORA study are to deliver tools for clinicians to make informed decisions about patients’ risk and care after a traumatic experience and to identify new intervention targets that will give rise to mechanism-informed treatments based on individual needs.

One Mind intends to raise $7.9 million over the next 5-years to give to the AURORA study to fill the gaps in the National Institute of Mental Health funding the study has received. Learn more about the AURORA study and the support we provide.


PTS is a mental health problem that some people develop after experiencing or witnessing a life-threatening event. Such events include combat, natural disasters, sexual assault, trauma or the loss of a loved one. It is normal to experience fear, upsetting memories or sleep disturbances through the weeks or months following the traumatic event, but for most, in this time, these feelings usually go away. If after an extended amount of time your symptoms remain or even intensify, you may have PTS.


PTS can happen to anyone.

Symptoms must last more than a month and be severe enough to interfere with relationships or work to be considered PTS. A doctor who has experience helping people with mental illnesses can diagnose PTS.


Symptoms include:


Re-experiencing Symptoms:

  • Flashbacks
  • Bad Dreams
  • Frightening thoughts


Avoidance Symptoms:

  • Staying away from places, events, people or objects that are reminders of the traumatic experience
  • Avoiding thoughts, feelings or conversations related to the traumatic event


Arousal and Reactivity Symptoms:

  • Being easily startled
  • Feeling tense
  • Sleep difficulties
  • Angry outbursts


Cognition and Mood Symptoms:

  • Trouble remembering key features of the traumatic event
  • Negative thoughts (about self and external)
  • Distorted feelings like guilt or blame
  • Loss of interest in enjoyable activities


To be diagnosed with PTS, and adult must have all of the following for at least one month:

  • At least one re-experiencing symptom
  • At least one avoidance symptom
  • At least two arousal and reactivity symptoms
  • At least two cognition and mood symptoms


Above from www.nimh.nih.gov


Other problems people with PTS may experience include:

  • Depression or anxiety
  • Alcohol or drug problems
  • Chronic pain
  • Hopelessness, shame or despair
  • Relationship problems

The two main types of treatment for PTS include psychotherapy and medication.


Psychotherapy involves meeting with a therapist or counselor and ranges in focus, including cognitive behavior therapy (CBT), cognitive processing therapy (CPT), and prolonged exposure (PE).