Post-traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)

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Definition

Post-traumatic Stress Disorder can occur in people who have experienced or witnessed a traumatic event such as a natural disaster, a serious accident, a terrorist act, war/combat, rape or other violent personal assault.1

PTSD affects 3.6% of the U.S. adult population—about 9 million individuals. About 37% of those diagnosed with PTSD are classified as having severe symptoms. Women are significantly more likely to experience PTSD than men.4

  • Intrusive thoughts such as vivid distressing dreams, memories and flashbacks of the traumatic event. Some negative thoughts and feelings may include ongoing and distorted beliefs about oneself, feeling detached or estranged from others.1, 6
  • Avoidance behaviours like avoiding people, places, activities, objects and situations that bring on distressing memories. Individuals may resist talking about what happened or how they feel about it.1
*Refer to information in definition section*
Service dogs can help prevent a re-experience and the appearance of symptoms. These animals can also serve as a social buffer and a de-escalation tool during times of stress.4
Treatment for PTSD may include1:
  • Psychotherapy
  • Medication: SSRIs and SNRIs are commonly used to treat the core symptoms of PTSD. They are used either alone or along with psychotherapy. Other medications may be used to lower anxiety or treat sleep problems.
  • Cognitive processing therapy focuses on modifying painful negative emotions and beliefs due to the trauma.
  • Prolonged exposure therapy: uses repeated and detailed imagining of the trauma in a safe and controlled environment in order to help a person face and gain control of their fear and distress and learn to cope.
  • Group Therapy: involves sharing traumatic experiences and reactions to other individuals in a comfortable and non-judgmental setting.

Other psychotherapies such as interpersonal, supportive and psychodynamic therapies focus on the emotional and interpersonal aspects of PTSD without reminding people of their traumas.1

Funded by

Vulnerability, Trauma, Resilience & Culture Laboratory
School of Psychology
Faculty of Social Sciences
University of Ottawa

136 Jean-Jacques Lussier, Ottawa, ON,
Canada, K1N 6N5
613-562-5800 ext. 4459
vtrac@uOttawa.ca