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PTSD: National Center for PTSD

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Basics Stress


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Traumatic Stress Basics

Most people will experience a traumatic event in their lifetime. This section includes basic information about the types of reactions people have following trauma.

How Do People React After a Traumatic Event?

Being exposed to stressful and traumatic events is common for Service members, including risk of serious injury or death from enemy fire, accidents in both training and combat settings, sexual assault, death of fellow unit members, and exposure to disease, infection, toxins, and chemical, biological, or nuclear materials. PTSD most commonly occurs after direct exposure to a traumatic event, but can also occur by being a witness to traumatic events, learning of the accidental or violent death of a close relative or friend, or through repeated or extreme exposure to aversive details of traumatic events, usually in the course of professional duties.

It is normal after a traumatic event to have acute, or short-term, stress reactions. Following traumatic events, one might experience a variety of emotional reactions such as fear, anxiety, depression, guilt, shame, or anger. Some might also notice behavioral changes such as an increase in substance use, a decrease in self-care, and avoidance of things that remind them of the traumatic event(s) (e.g., people and places). If these symptoms do not improve within 30 days, it could be PTSD.

PTSD Information Voice Mail: (802) 296-6300
Also see: VA Mental Health