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Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)

What is post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)?

Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is a mental health condition that develops after a traumatic event. These situations may be life-threatening, such as military combat, a natural disaster, a car accident, domestic abuse or sexual assault. The disorder can also be triggered by trauma that is not necessarily dangerous, such the sudden, unexpected death of a loved one. Instead of recovering naturally over time, some individuals experience recurring anxiety and stress long after the ordeal is over.

Effective treatments are available at UF Health's psychiatry and primary care practices. No one has to cope with the hardship of PTSD alone. Our mental health professionals are dedicated to finding the most effective therapy programs to reestablish hope and speed recovery.

In addition, UF Health Jacksonville has established the Leon L. Haley Jr., M.D., Brain Wellness Program that offers a multidisciplinary team approach to provide a comprehensive care plan for our military veterans and first responders who have suffered a Traumatic Brain Injury along with associated behavioral health issues, such as post-traumatic stress.

What are the common symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)?

While the disorder affects people differently, and the severity of symptoms may vary, some behaviors are common:

  • Reliving the trauma with flashbacks, nightmares or frightening thoughts
  • Avoiding people or situations that might trigger memories, thus creating a greater feeling of personal detachment and isolation from others
  • Feeling increased reactive symptoms, such as continually watching for possible danger, agitation, irritability, tension, difficulty sleeping and angry outbursts
  • Experiencing negative moods and thoughts that can include hopelessness, loss of interest in activities, trouble concentrating and feelings of blame or guilt

How is post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) diagnosed?

PTSD is typically diagnosed when symptoms have persisted for at least 30 days. Because other illnesses also can present similar symptoms, the physician may perform a physical exam and as well as a psychological evaluation.

What are the treatments for post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)?

Our mental health professionals will tailor a treatment plan to address individual needs and reestablish the road to recovery. The primary treatment is trauma-focused therapy, which can teach coping skills and how to manage symptoms, desensitize feelings about the trauma and elevate mood. Several types of therapies may be used including cognitive processing therapy, eye movement desensitization and reprocessing, and prolonged exposure therapy. If needed, medication can also be included to help with depression, anxiety or sleeplessness.

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Clinical Trials: Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)

UF Health research scientists make medicine better every day. They discover new ways to help people by running clinical trials. When you join a clinical trial, you can get advanced medical care. Sometimes years before it's available everywhere. You can also help make medicine better for everyone else. If you'd like to learn more about clinical trials, visit our clinical trials page. Or click one of the links below:

News and Patient Stories: Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)

More Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) stories