Dealing with PTSD (Post-traumatic stress disorder) | Dr. Petter

Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is a real mental health condition triggered by exposure to a terrifying event. Seven to eight percent of our population will experience PTSD at some point in their lives. It occurs in 11-20 percent of military personal returning from war.

All ages can have PTSD, and it is more likely to develop after exposure to a traumatic situation or event. Women are more likely than men to develop this, as are children who have been or are being abused or neglected, victims of rape, people exposed to combat, and those lacking a strong and stable support system. Those individuals having other mental conditions, such as depression and/or anxiety, are at a higher risk of developing this condition.

Symptoms typically develop within three months of the event; however, in others, they may not appear for years. Typical symptoms may include: nightmares; uncontrollable thoughts about the event; flashbacks; feelings of hopelessness; poor concentration; anger; irritability; engaging in self-destructive behavior (i.e., alcohol abuse, illegal drug use); and hearing or seeing things that are not present.

There is no blood test for this condition; rather, the diagnosis is based on signs and symptoms, along with a thorough mental evaluation. Treatment focuses on the use of prescription medications, psychotherapy, developing coping strategies, and developing a strong support system.

Not everyone who is exposed to a traumatic event will develop PTSD. If you are having symptoms however, or know of someone who may be struggling, make an appointment to see your doctor or a mental health professional. PTSD is a real medical condition and real help is available.

Dr. Linda Petter of Auburn is a weekly feature on KOMO TVNews Radio (1000 AM & 97.7 FM) every Saturday and Sunday 7:45 a.m. and 9:45 am, and on a weekday during the morning and evening commute. She trained at the Mayo Clinic and the University of Illinois, Carle Hospital. Dr. Petter is chief of the Department of Family Practice at St. Francis Hospital in Federal Way. She is a consumer healthcare advocate, and her books, "Healthcare On a Budget" and "Common Medical Sense", are available on Visit her website,, or call her office at 253-568-0841.

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