While most often associated with experiencing wartime trauma, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) may occur following exposure to any traumatic event. PTSD can develop in response to natural disasters, accidents or violent experiences. PTSD facts indicate that a majority of adults experience at least one traumatic event during their life, but most do not go on to develop PTSD. According to PTSD statistics, a relatively small percentage of those who experience trauma develop PTSD. However, PTSD facts and statistics indicate that the disorder is more common than many people estimate.

Facts at a Glance

Some interesting facts about PTSD include:

  • 70 percent of adults experience at least one traumatic event in their lifetime
  • 20 percent of people who experience a traumatic event will develop PTSD
  • About 8 million people have PTSD in a given year
  • 1 in 13 people will develop PTSD at some point in their life

Prevalence of PTSD

Statistics on the prevalence of PTSD in the United States vary depending on the specific group or population being studied. Overall, PTSD affects around 3.5% of the U.S. population, approximately 8 million Americans, in a given year.

prevalence of PTSD infographic

PTSD in Adults

Studies have found that in the past year, PTSD affected an estimated 3.6 percent of American adults over the age of 18. The symptoms of PTSD in adults are grouped by impairment level as serious, moderate or mild. It is estimated that 36.6 percent of adults experience serious impairment, 33.1 percent have a moderate impairment and 30.2 percent have mild impairment. While most statistics focus on PTSD in adults, all age groups can be affected. PTSD in youth does occur, though sometimes trauma experienced in childhood does not result in PTSD until after the brain has further developed in early adulthood.

PTSD Among Adolescents

While most currently available statistics measure the rates of PTSD in adults, the disorder can affect any age group. An estimated 5 percent of adolescents experience PTSD. Like adults, PTSD symptoms in adolescence can be ranked as seriously, moderately or mildly impairing. Studies on PTSD in teens have found that 1.5 percent experience severe impairment. PTSD in adolescents is more common in the later teen years; while the prevalence of PTSD for teens aged 13–14 is 3.7 percent, that number increases to 7 percent in the 17–18 age group.

PTSD in Women vs. Men

While the overall past year prevalence of PTSD in adults is estimated at 3.6 percent, the numbers indicate that PTSD is far more common in women than in men. The past year prevalence of PTSD in men is estimated at 1.8 percent, while PTSD symptoms affected 5.2 percent of adult women. Men have been found to experience more traumatic events during their lifetime than women, but PTSD symptoms in men are far less common than symptoms in women.

PTSD and Domestic Violence

While PTSD may not always develop immediately following an episode of abuse,  the connection between PTSD and domestic violence is undeniable. The probability of domestic violence victims developing PTSD may be influenced by the severity and duration of violence, as well as the age the violence is experienced. The perceived level of threat from domestic violence — for example, whether or not someone feels their life is in danger — can also influence the development of PTSD. The intense emotional connection victims have with their domestic abuser is likely a large part of what makes domestic violence so traumatic.

PTSD in Veterans

Statistics on PTSD in veterans from many past wars are not available because the condition wasn’t officially recognized until the 1980s. Before being recognized as an official medical diagnosis, PTSD was referred to as “shell shock.” However, anecdotal reports of shell shock indicate that PTSD occurred in war veterans in the Civil War, World War I and World War II.

Most of the veteran PTSD data currently available are from recent wars, including Iraq and Afghanistan. PTSD statistics for the military signify that an estimated 20 percent of combat veterans from these wars developed PTSD. However, PTSD in soldiers does not occur exclusively as a result of combat. While only 17 percent of combat troops are women, 71 percent of female military members develop PTSD due to sexual assault experienced within the ranks. 

PTSD and Co-Occurring Conditions

Many mental health disorders can co-occur with PTSD, possible due, in part, to the significant changes in brain functioning following a traumatic event that leads to PTSD. Someone with PTSD may experience depression, suicidal thoughts, anxiety or substance use disorders.

PTSD co-occurring conditions infographic

PTSD and Depression

Depression is a common mental health concern, with approximately 1 in 10 people having some form of depressive disorder each year. Depression is more common among people who experience traumatic events. PTSD and depression frequently co-occur, as people with PTSD are 3 to 5 times more likely to have a depressive disorder.

PTSD and Suicide

Experiencing a traumatic event can increase a person’s suicide risk. This relationship between PTSD and suicide may be due in part to other common co-occurring conditions such as depression. In general, people with PTSD who struggle to express their feelings have a higher risk of suicide.

PTSD and Trauma

Trauma and PTSD are interconnected due to the disruptions and changes in brain chemistry caused by trauma. Most people first think of military combat as the primary cause of PTSD, but this condition may occur in response to other traumas, including sexual abuse.

However, other traumatic events may occur in a person’s life that can lead to PTSD:

  • 49 percent of rape victims will develop PTSD
  • Nearly 32 percent of victims of severe physical assault develop PTSD
  • 16.8 percent of people who are involved in serious accidents, such as car or train accidents, develop PTSD
  • 15.4 percent of shooting and stabbing victims develop PTSD
  • 14.3 percent of people who suddenly and unexpectedly experience the death of a close loved one develop PTSD
  • Parents of children with life-threatening illnesses develop PTSD 10.4 percent of the time
  • Witnessing the murder or serious injury or another person causes PTSD in 7.3 percent of people
  • 3.8 percent of people who experience natural disasters develop PTSD

PTSD and Anxiety

Though now considered a separate type of disorder, PTSD was previously categorized as an anxiety disorder. This association was made because PTSD and anxiety disorders share some symptoms, many of which can be impairing sleep and other essential biological functions. Someone with PTSD-related anxiety may also constantly feel on edge and be easily startled. Additionally, anxiety caused by PTSD can make it difficult to concentrate or increase agitation.

PTSD and Substance Abuse

PTSD and substance abuse often co-occur. One study estimates that 46.4 percent of people with PTSD also meet the criteria for a substance use disorder. PTSD and alcohol use disorders may be even more closely related due to the legality of alcohol, which makes it more easily accessible than other substances. A study found that women with PTSD were 2.48 times more likely to misuse alcohol, while men with PTSD were 2.06 times more likely.

PTSD Prognosis

PTSD prognosis has improved in recent years as researchers and medical professionals have found increasingly effective treatments. The long-term prognosis for PTSD is good, and treatment frequently eliminates or reduces symptoms.

Data on PTSD prognosis demonstrates the importance of seeking treatment. People with PTSD who sought treatment had symptoms lasting an average of 36 months, while those who did not seek treatment had symptoms lasting an average of 64 months. While approximately one-third of people do not achieve full symptom elimination with treatment, most individuals experience a significant reduction in the intensity of their symptoms.

Prognosis may be improved by:

  • Prompt treatment engagement
  • Social support
  • Avoided re-traumatization
  • High level of functioning before the onset of PTSD
  • Absence of other mental health conditions

Statistics on Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder Treatment and Outlook

PTSD treatment is becoming increasingly available, and PTSD treatment statistics indicate a positive outlook for treatment. One study found that as many as 46 percent of people with PTSD improved within six weeks of beginning psychotherapy. Researchers have found that as many as 62 percent of people receiving medication for PTSD show improvement. The VA recognizes the need for PTSD treatment for veterans, and PTSD treatment is now available at all VA locations. There are also nearly 200 VA locations with specialized PTSD programs.

If you or your loved one is struggling with PTSD or another mental health concern in addition to a substance use disorder, contact The Recovery Village today to learn more about our evidence-based treatment programs available at facilities across the country.

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