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How Long Does PTSD Last?

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PTSD, or post-traumatic stress disorder, is a mental health condition triggered by a traumatic event or events. The effects of PTSD can be long-term or go away within several weeks or months. It’s important to know that PTSD is a very serious mental illness, and the causes and effects vary from person to person.

• What is PTSD?

Factors That Can Affect How Long PTSD Lasts

Post-traumatic stress disorder is triggered by a traumatic or highly stressful event, series of events, and/or long-term trauma. It’s most common among survivors of sexual assault, military veterans, people who have been in an accident, or who survived other traumatic experiences.

One of the reasons it’s difficult to put a timetable on how long PTSD will last is that it affects everyone differently. People also respond very differently to PTSD based on what caused it initially and how they’re wired as a person. Here are some of the trauma-related factors that can impact the length of PTSD.

  • If you experienced a single traumatic event or multiple ones
  • Was the trauma accidental, or did someone do something to you intentionally?
  • The type of trauma you experienced
  • If other mental health problems accompany your PTSD

PTSD Symptoms and Signs

Many different signs and symptoms can accompany PTSD. Symptoms can start within several weeks or a month of your traumatic experience, or they might not manifest for several years. For your condition to be classified as PTSD, they have to last for more than a month and be severe enough to burden your relationships, work life, or personal life.

Here are the four types of symptoms that accompany PTSD.

Intrusive or burdensome memories

Intrusive memories are when you have clear and unwanted thoughts and feelings about the traumatic event you experienced. These memories occur often and can make you extremely scared, depressed, and anxious. You can also relive your traumatic experience through dreams or flashbacks.

These memories can happen randomly, but they’re often triggered by things you notice or experience throughout your day. They might have nothing to do with what happened to you, but something about them reminds you of your traumatic events or event.


Withdrawal included avoiding people, things, places, or events that could trigger your experience. For example, if the source of your PTSD was being trapped at sea, you might refuse to go to the beach, sail on a boat, or even go to an aquarium for fear that you’ll see or feel something that takes you back to that terrible moment in your life.

Depression or mood changes

If your PTSD gets bad enough, you’ll start to go through dark mood changes and periods of depression. You may feel hopeless about the future, detached from your friends and family, emotionally numb, and come to hate things you once loved. You might even start to have suicidal thoughts or turn to drugs and alcohol as a way to block out the painful memories.

Physical and emotional symptoms

People around you may notice that you are jumpy or easily startled by things. You’ll likely also have trouble sleeping, eating, appetite changes, or have unexpected outbursts of rage. Although PTSD is considered a mental disorder, it affects every part of you and the people you love.

Causes of PTSD and Risk Factors

While the cause of PTSD is almost always related to a traumatic event, experience, or a series of them, certain risk factors put people more at risk than others. This includes combat veterans, children, and people who have been through a physical or sexual assault, abuse, accident, disaster, or other serious events. Here are some of the risk factors associated with PTSD:

  • Women are more likely to get PTSD than men.
  • A family history of PTSD or mental illness puts you at higher risk.
  • Having a high-stress or dangerous job puts you at more risk of experiencing a traumatic event.
  • Having other mental health problems also puts you at higher risk.
  • Not having a good support system makes it harder to deal with a traumatic experience.

It’s important to note that not every single case of PTSD is because of a traumatic event related to danger. You can get it after the death of a loved one or if someone you care about experiences danger. It’s estimated that seven or eight out of every 100 people will experience PTSD at one point or another.

PTSD Treatment

The most common forms of treatment for PTSD include medications and psychotherapy. However, because the condition affects everyone differently and people have various responses to treatments, it’s crucial to find help from a professional who is willing to work with you.

Regardless of what type of treatment you prefer, you must seek help from a mental health professional. Talking to friends and family is a good start, but most cases of PTSD require the help of a doctor.

Living With PTSD

While receiving medical treatment can help with PTSD, there’s no actual cure for it. However, with the right combination of medications and therapy, you can learn to live with PTSD and not have it interfere with your everyday life. The amount of time this takes will depend on you and the type of event you experienced. Your PTSD symptoms should get less severe or may disappear altogether with proper care and treatment. If you’re experiencing PTSD symptoms, it’s important to reach out to a healthcare provider for support and to learn about the right treatment options for your situation.

Stories From People Living With PTSD

Connect With Others Who Have PTSD

The Mighty is a community for people like you who are living with PTSD and other mental health conditions. You can read stories from others with similar experiences, join support groups for your condition, and even share your own story.

PTSD Support Groups

Mental Health Newsletters

Originally published: June 16, 2022
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