PTSD Awareness Month: Common Symptoms, Diagnosis, And Treatment

Medically reviewed by Julie Dodson, MA
Updated April 17, 2024by BetterHelp Editorial Team
Content Warning: Please be advised, the below article might mention trauma-related topics that could be triggering to the reader. Please see our Get Help Now page for more immediate resources.
Over 70% of US adults experience a traumatic event at some point, amounting to over 223 million people. After a traumatic event occurs, it can be natural to feel sad, anxious, or fearful for some time before it subsides. However, for some, trauma has a lasting impact, causing fear and distress to remain and accompanying other symptoms that can affect everyday life for months or years. When this occurs, it may be a sign of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

Approximately one out of six people in the United States are diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder at some point during their lives. Not everyone who has experienced trauma will have PTSD, but a significant percentage does. In honor of these numbers, it can be essential to increase awareness and support of what PTSD is and how it can impact individuals and their loved ones. 

June is Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder Awareness Month, a time to be more conscious of the disorder and its associated symptoms and raise PTSD awareness. In honor of increasing the visibility of this trauma-related stress disorder, consider looking further into the definition, statistics, diagnosis, and treatment options surrounding PTSD. 

Are you experiencing PTSD symptoms?

What is PTSD?

Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is a mental illness caused by a traumatic situation, event, or experience that is directly experienced or witnessed. The American Psychiatric Association states, “People with PTSD have intense, disturbing thoughts and feelings related to their experience that last long after the traumatic event has ended.”

Some people who experience a traumatic event may cope and heal with time. However, when someone struggles to move past the event or function in daily life, they may be living with a mental health condition. 

Who can be diagnosed with PTSD? 

In the past, PTSD was often only considered in the case of soldiers and other war veterans. However, psychological research has developed, and researchers know that anyone at any age or life stage can develop PTSD—not just veterans. Women are most likely to be diagnosed with PTSD. 

Not everyone who goes through a traumatic event or series of traumatic events develops PTSD. Those who have a healthy support system, see a therapist, and have positive coping strategies may be more likely to recover faster.

What causes PTSD? 

Various events can cause PTSD. Two people who go through the same situation may react differently, and the perceived severity of a traumatic event may not correlate with the severity of the mental illness someone experiences. Potential traumatic events may include but are not limited to the following: 

  • Serious accidents
  • Physical assault
  • Sexual assault
  • Verbal, physical, sexual, or emotional abuse 
  • Health challenges 
  • The loss of a baby 
  • Going through natural disasters like a tornado or hurricane
  • Exposure to combat or war
  • Threats to your safety or life 
  • The loss of a loved one in a traumatic or unexpected manner, or in general 
  • Childhood abuse or neglect 

If you are facing or witnessing abuse of any kind, the National Domestic Violence Hotline is available 24/7 for support. Call 1-800-799-SAFE (7233) or text “START” to 88788. You can also use the online chat

Not everyone who experiences the above events may develop PTSD. However, these events are common causes of the condition. If you experience a traumatic event or series of events, seek support from a professional to lower your risk of developing a severe mental illness.  

What is PTSD Awareness Month? 

On June 25th, 2015, the United States Senate unanimously passed a resolution to designate June National PTSD Awareness Month to improve the diagnostic rate and treatment availability for post-traumatic stress disorder. The Senate resolution, headed by Senator Mark R. Warner of Virginia, recognized that PTSD is often underreported and undertreated due to stigma and lack of awareness. 

Since then, June has been known as National PTSD Awareness Month, with June 27th being named the official National PTSD Awareness Day. Individuals in the United States dedicate this month to an opportunity to raise awareness for PTSD, reduce stigma, and spread the word that treatment is available. 

Around 20 million people in the United States are living with PTSD. Although modern PTSD treatments can have promising results, some people do not seek support due to stigma. Some may not know they can have PTSD if they aren’t veterans, while others might believe they don’t need help or would be better off alone. 

PTSD Awareness Month provides an ample opportunity to spread the word about the signs of PTSD and where to go if you or a loved one may have it. When more people know the treatment options that are available to them, they may have a better chance of receiving support and care.

Each June and year-round, you can pledge to raise awareness, joining the millions of other people with similar goals and commitments. If you have PTSD, you can also take an online or in-person screening test and contact a professional to discuss your results. 

What are the symptoms of PTSD? 

PTSD symptoms can vary from person to person. However, some of the most common symptoms include the following: 

  • Intrusive thoughts or upsetting memories
  • Recurrent dreams related to the traumatic event 
  • Intense reactions to emotional or physical triggers 
  • Flashbacks (reliving the memories) of the event
  • Numbness or apathy 
  • Avoidance of places, people, situations, or items that remind you of your trauma 
  • Difficulty falling or staying asleep 
  • Persistent negative thoughts
  • Appetite changes 
  • Irritability
  • Anxiety or fear 
  • Negative thought processes
  • Mood changes 
  • Reckless behavior
  • Guilt or shame 
  • Loss of interest in previously enjoyed activities
  • Social withdrawal 
  • Aggression or anger 
  • Thoughts of suicide or suicide attempts

If you are experiencing suicidal thoughts or urges, call the 988 Suicide & Crisis Lifeline at 988 or text 988 to talk to a crisis provider over SMS. They are available 24/7 to offer support. 988 also offers an online chat for those with an internet connection.

Contact a mental health professional if you or a loved one are experiencing the above symptoms. A therapist or psychiatrist can offer an accurate diagnosis and provide you with resources for your next steps. Note that some of the symptoms above can also be symptoms of another mental illness, so a proper diagnosis can be essential. 

How is PTSD diagnosed? 

According to the US Department of Veterans Affairs, you may have PTSD if you continue to experience distressing feelings, thoughts, or memories related to a traumatic incident or series of incidents several months after they have occurred. However, to receive a diagnosis of PTSD, you must speak with a medical provider. 

A mental health provider can perform a psychological evaluation to ask questions about your past and symptoms. They may ask about the specific event that caused your distress. Using the current version of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual, the DSM-5TR, the provider can assess your symptoms and evaluate whether you meet the criteria for PTSD. In people over six years of age, these criteria include:

  1. Exposure to a threat like death, serious injury, or sexual violence that is directly experienced or witnessed 
  2. Development of intrusive symptoms after the event occurs, including but not limited to flashbacks, memories, nightmares, and other psychological reactions
  3. Avoidance of situations, people, or locations that remind you of the traumatic event 
  4. Negative cognitions and moods due to the event 
  5. Noticeable changes in behavior, arousal, or reactivity because of the experience
  6. Persisting symptoms for over a month 
  7. Clinical significant distress in social, occupational, or other areas of life
  8. Symptoms that are not a result of substance use or another mental illness 

It may take time before someone develops PTSD. In some cases, people develop the condition immediately after the traumatic experience. However, symptoms may begin years after the traumatic event has ended for others. Since each person experiences PTSD differently, involving professionals from the beginning can be beneficial. 

If you are struggling with substance use, contact the SAMHSA National Helpline at (800) 662-4357 to receive support and resources.

Treatment options for PTSD 

PTSD is a treatable condition. Those who develop this type of trauma-related disorder may be able to learn new coping skills to help them live happier, healthier lives. Standard PTSD treatment options include the following.  


Working alongside a therapist, you may develop new coping mechanisms, skills, and tools for living with and moving past PTSD. There are specific therapeutic modalities developed to treat PTSD or studied in the treatment of this condition. These include trauma-focused psychotherapy methods, including cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT), eye movement desensitization and reprocessing (EMDR), brief eclectic psychotherapy (BEP), or narrative exposure therapy (NET), among others. 


Sometimes, therapy may be challenging for those with PTSD. A doctor may recommend medication to improve mood, concentration, and overall well-being while someone goes through therapy. However, consult a doctor before starting, changing, or stopping a medication. 

Combination treatment 

PTSD treatments can help clients work toward recognizing and addressing the root of their challenging symptoms. Medication-based PTSD treatments work by minimizing and managing distressing symptoms. 

Though PTSD is no longer classified as an anxiety disorder, some similarities exist between PTSD and anxiety disorders. There is also a high rate of comorbidity in the development of anxiety disorders with PTSD. Some available treatments can address both conditions simultaneously. 

Untreated PTSD can cause serious psychological harm over time, but many resources exist to help you recover from the events that caused your PTSD. People respond differently to different treatments, so the most effective PTSD treatment may depend on your preferences. You might also try different therapy methods, switch therapists, or investigate medication for a combination approach. Further, you can participate in important events like National Recovery Month to raise awareness. 

Lifestyle changes for coping with PTSD 

Besides medication and therapy, there are a few lifestyle changes you can consider, including the following: 

  • Getting enough rest at night
  • Eating healthy meals
  • Exercising regularly
  • Spending time with loved ones
  • Journaling 
  • Practicing mindfulness
  • Joining a support group

By being proactive, you can stay ahead of your health and potentially prevent challenges from arising. 

How to support someone with PTSD

Although you may not understand PTSD or what someone is going through, you can take specific steps to offer them support. Try to ensure they know they are not alone, and tell them how you can help. Below are a few tips: 

  • Ask them how you can help instead of assuming. 
  • Try not to pressure them. Be patient and wait for them to be comfortable enough to talk. 
  • Practice compassion.
  • Try not to be judgmental. 
  • Be empathetic about their circumstances. 
  • Learn about their triggers. 
  • Listen when they talk about what they are going through.
  • Learn everything you can about PTSD from trusted, reputable sources.
  • Remove triggers from your household if you live together. 
  • Encourage them to reach out for professional support and resources. 
  • Do not try to “fix” them or their situation. 

While supporting someone with PTSD can be kind, try not to neglect yourself in the process. You may be better suited to supporting others when caring for yourself. 

Are you experiencing PTSD symptoms?

Professional support options 

Reaching out for professional support may be daunting for some people with PTSD. In-person appointments can require a significant time and financial commitment. If you’re looking for approachable and cost-effective treatment, online therapy through a platform like BetterHelp may benefit you. 

A study published in BMC Psychiatry found that internet-based therapy can have long-lasting positive effects on those with PTSD, anxiety, depression, and other mental health conditions. Once you sign up with an online platform, you can be matched with a therapist to speak to throughout the week. Clients can choose between phone, video, or live chat sessions from any device with an internet connection. This flexibility allows you to have control over how you receive therapy. 


In honor of the many who struggle with PTSD in their everyday lives, it can be essential to raise awareness and provide support for these individuals as it can have significant impacts on one's mental health and their loved ones.
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