Posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) can occur after you have been through a trauma. A trauma is a shocking and dangerous event that you see or that happens to you. During this type of event, you think that your life or others' lives are in danger.
Going through trauma is not rare. About 6 of every 10 men (or 60%) and 5 of every 10 women (or 50%) experience at least one trauma in their lives. Women are more likely to experience sexual assault and child sexual abuse. Men are more likely to experience accidents, physical assault, combat, disaster, or to witness death or injury.
PTSD can happen to anyone. It is not a sign of weakness. A number of factors can increase the chance that someone will develop PTSD, many of which are not under that person's control. For example, if you were directly exposed to the trauma or injured, you are more likely to develop PTSD.
Here are some facts (based on the U.S. population):
- About 7 or 8 out of every 100 people (or 7-8% of the population) will have PTSD at some point in their lives.
- About 8 million adults have PTSD during a given year. This is only a small portion of those who have gone through a trauma.
- About 10 of every 100 women (or 10%) develop PTSD sometime in their lives compared with about 4 of every 100 men (or 4%). Learn more about women, trauma and PTSD.
PTSD and the Military
When you are in the military, you may see combat. You may have been on missions that exposed you to horrible and life-threatening experiences. These types of events can lead to PTSD.
The number of Veterans with PTSD varies by service era
- Operations Iraqi Freedom (OIF) and Enduring Freedom (OEF)
About 11-20 out of every 100 Veterans (or between 11-20%) who served in OIF or OEF have PTSD in a given year.
- Gulf War (Desert Storm)
About 12 out of every 100 Gulf War Veterans (or 12%) have PTSD in a given year.
- Vietnam War
About 15 out of every 100 Vietnam Veterans (or 15%) were currently diagnosed with PTSD at the time of the most recent study in the late 1980s, the National Vietnam Veterans Readjustment Study (NVVRS). It is estimated that about 30 out of every 100 (or 30%) of Vietnam Veterans have had PTSD in their lifetime.
Other factors in a combat situation can add more stress to an already stressful situation. This may contribute to PTSD and other mental health problems. These factors include what you do in the war, the politics around the war, where the war is fought, and the type of enemy you face.
Another cause of PTSD in the military can be military sexual trauma (MST). This is any sexual harassment or sexual assault that occurs while you are in the military. MST can happen to both men and women and can occur during peacetime, training, or war. Among Veterans who use VA health care, about:
- 23 out of 100 women (or 23%) reported sexual assault when in the military.
- 55 out of 100 women (or 55%) and 38 out of 100 men (or 38%) have experienced sexual harassment when in the military.
There are many more male Veterans than there are female Veterans. So, even though military sexual trauma is more common in women Veterans, over half of all Veterans with military sexual trauma are men.