Statistics And Figures: What Age Group Shows The Most PTSD In The United States?

Updated October 7, 2022by BetterHelp Editorial Team

PTSD is not a discriminating condition. It affects people of all ages, races, socioeconomic backgrounds, and belief systems. The core of PTSD is trauma, and unfortunately, trauma can enter into the lives of anyone, through accidents, abuse, natural disasters, and the threat of injury. Although PTSD is usually associated with severe events, such as war, famine, and mass shootings, the condition can affect people with seemingly minor traumas and can be debilitating.

If you are facing or witnessing abuse of any kind, the National Domestic Violence Hotline is available. Call 1-800-799-SAFE (7233) or Text "START" to 88788. You can also use the online chat.

PTSD Can Impact Individuals Of All Ages

What Exactly Is PTSD?

Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder is a pervasive anxiety disorder known for avoidant behavior, personality changes, recurring memory surges, and hyperarousal. These four core symptoms are the standard barometer by which PTSD is measured and tested for. Within each of these symptoms is a series of smaller symptoms that all add up to create a disorder that severely and negatively impacts an individual's quality of life. PTSD is not always easy to detect, however, and is often downplayed by the people who have it out of fear, embarrassment, or simple misunderstanding.

The onset of PTSD is caused by trauma, as its name suggests. The exact function of PTSD, it is thought, is initially ; your mind shields itself from the gravity of trauma to ward off shock. Over time, however, if the memories are not safely and effectively dealt with and sorted through, they can become a proverbial thorn in your mind and will continue to cause mental and even physical symptoms until the trauma is thoroughly dealt with.

PTSD is not a linear disorder; you do not experience trauma, and immediately begin displaying symptoms of PTSD. This is one of the reasons the disorder can be insidious: weeks, months, and even years can pass before symptoms pop up, making self-detection difficult or confusing. Some people feel as though they've lost their minds when persistent nightmares and recurring flashbacks begin years after a trauma. Others are afraid and feel as though they will be mocked or derided for their weakness if they acknowledge that a traumatic event is still haunting them. Still, others might not connect their symptoms to the trauma itself and will consider symptoms simple signs of anxiety or discomfort.

Symptoms of PTSD must last for one month or longer to qualify for a PTSD diagnosis, and a diagnosis must come from a mental health professional for insurance companies and other agencies to consider symptoms a legitimate threat to normal, healthy living.

How Does PTSD Affect Individuals And Communities?

Symptoms of PTSD do not exist in a vacuum; by default, family , friends, and other loved ones of people with PTSD are affected  by the condition. Because many people with PTSD become emotionally distressed, withdrawn, and absent, loving relationships can be heavily fractured and strained when PTSD is present. Even work relationships can struggle when PTSD is involved, as one of the symptoms of PTSD is personality changes, such as increased aggression, anger, irritability, paranoia, fear, and apprehension. All of these emotional responses can negatively impact your work and can create tension and other problems in relationships with coworkers, managers, and overseers.

In large-scale PTSD communities, such as those with a lot of veterans, or communities that have suffered losses at the hands of natural disasters or large-scale deaths, workforces can decrease, mental health needs can increase, and there can be a demand greater than the availability of services. Although there are many programs designed to alleviate effects like these in communities which have fallen on hard times, the economic and social effects of large numbers of PTSD sufferers can be staggering.

Are Certain Ages More Likely To Develop PTSD?

Statistically, PTSD does not adhere to a single age limit for diagnosis. Unlike many neurodegenerative disorders, mood disorders, and personality disorders, PTSD is a cocktail of largely external factors and a small handful of internal factors, so diagnosis is based far more upon chance than it is upon genetic susceptibility. Living in a dangerous or war-torn region is far more likely to increase your risk of developing PTSD than any age-related criteria.

That being said. However, PTSD developing in childhood does put you at greater risk for developing other mood and personality disorders into adulthood. Childhood trauma is particularly damaging and complex, and experiencing even a single trauma in childhood can have a marked effect on the entirety of your development, your outlook on life, and your resilience later on. Children who have experienced trauma have a greater risk for physical ailments as well, suggesting that childhood trauma is particularly difficult to process and heal from.

Trauma may also be more pronounced in children because children do not possess the same reasoning abilities as adults. Whereas adults can identify and process the motivation behind behaviors and occurrences-i.e. "the flood occurred because climate change is escalating" or "that man opened fire into a crowd because he was filled with hatred and self-loathing"-children cannot tap into these same reasoning processes, and have a much harder time comprehending why things happen, and how they are supposed to be handled.

Children are even more powerfully impacted by news reports. Children who have to the news without any filter whatsoever are more likely to  develop depression and anxiety when compared to children whose parents are more selective about exposure to news outlets and other sources of (honest, but) grim information. If a child's brain has difficulty processing something as seemingly small and benign as a news story, how much more actual exposure to trauma in the face of abuse, injury, or abject terror?

If you are facing or witnessing abuse of any kind, the National Domestic Violence Hotline is available. Call 1-800-799-SAFE (7233) or Text "START" to 88788. You can also use the online chat.

PTSD: Who Does It Affect?

The risk factors associated with PTSD have little to do with age or background; instead, the greatest determiner in the development of PTSD is the presence of trauma. People who have repeated exposure to trauma are going to be at greater risk of developing PTSD, as are people who have experienced some form of anxiety at some point in the past.

The death of an immediate family or another person close to you will also increase your risk of developing PTSD, particularly if you are a child, or the death is sudden, unexpected, or violent. This can be the case for a sudden heart attack just as much as if a loved one is fatally stabbed; the trauma comes not necessarily from the death itself, but how the death occurs. Grief is a natural expectation of a loved one's death, but PTSD is not a standard development.

Limiting The Reach Of PTSD

So what populations experience the least amount of PTSD diagnoses? Again, there is no race, age, or other affiliation that decreases your risk, but there are certain things that can contribute to healthier relationships to stress, anxiety, and fear. The greatest determiner in whether or not PTSD will develop is the presence of support. Children and adults with consistent, loving, and nurturing support systems are less likely to develop the symptoms of PTSD and may be more effectively able to process, work through, and come out the other side of a traumatic incident.

People who seek treatment quickly are also more likely to experience relief soon after symptoms occur, as the effects of PTSD can quickly create a domino effect of isolation, alienation, and continued and prolonged episodes of fear. PTSD treatment is a powerful tool in healing your mind and taking back control of your life and well-being.

Is There An Age More Likely To Have PTSD?

PTSD Can Impact Individuals Of All Ages

Although there is no definitive age or age range that is more likely to experience the onset of PTSD, PTSD may be more pronounced in children than in adults, and children may have far more triggers leading to the development of PTSD than adults. Because the cognitive functions of children are far smaller and less complex than those of their adult counterparts, children are uniquely susceptible to trauma and its symptoms, including the four core symptoms of PTSD. Children who have a solid support system in place may be able to defray some of these increased risks, however, as a stable support system is one of the greatest ways to mitigate the effects of trauma and improve outcomes.

Although PTSD can be alarming for children and adults both, the condition is extremely treatable in people of all ages and backgrounds and does not require extensive plans, expensive doctors, or endless rounds of treatment. Instead, people seeking treatment for PTSD should search for a psychiatrist, psychologist, or therapist who has experience working with PTSD or other anxiety disorders and finds a treatment modality that works for their unique situation and needs.

Therapists can enlist the help of numerous treatment modalities, some of them talk-focused (as is the case with Cognitive Behavioral Therapy), and others-centered more around rewiring neural connections to improve trauma response (as in Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing, or EMDR). These techniques can aid people of all ages in healing symptoms of PTSD and effectively processing trauma.

You Don't Have To Face Post Traumatic Stress Disorder Alone.

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