Student Questions About PTSD


Sexual harassment has been making the news lately.  Dozens of powerful men in Hollywood (especially) and business and government are being accused of misconduct by vulnerable young women (and men in some cases).

Post Traumatic Stress Disorder can result from any trauma. Car accidents, animal attacks, a bad fall — not just sexual assault or war.

A high-school student doing a report for school recently wrote to me asking about PTSD.  I thought my answers might be of interest to others, so I’m sharing them with you.


Dear Ariana,

It is wonderful to find young people interested in the sciences, and especially my favorite field!  My experience may be different from other folks as I have been an active duty USArmy medical Corps psychiatrist and worked in many different kinds of institutions including hospitals and outpatient clinics of The Veteran’s Administration, private and public facilities in several states as well as France and Canada.

1. What is the most common traumatizing experience a person has gone through?

PTSD happens often in military combat situations.  For women in all sectors it is frequently from sexual abuse or domestic violence.  To my dismay, I am seeing an increasing amount from harassment — often at work.

2. How does PTSD affect someone’s daily lifestyle and behavior in comparison to someone who doesn’t have PTSD?

A PTSD victim may have difficulties with work or school, depending on the trauma and what reminds them of it.  The main characteristic is unwanted recollections of the event, either during the day or in nightmares.  There are frequent difficulties with sleep.  Trouble dealing with the memories often leads to substance abuse.

3. What are some common symptoms of someone with PTSD?

I guess I answered the symptom question above.  Often the illness occurs along with other disorders like mood disorders (depression, bipolar illness) or other anxiety disorders (obsessive-compulsive or generalized anxiety)

4. What are some coping mechanisms you give to that person you are speaking with? What do you find is the most effective coping tactics?

Often medication, which may diminish frequency and intensity of symptoms or medications for the conditions that occur simultaneously.  For therapy, I like to refer out for hypnosis, or do emotional freedom technique (EFT for short) myself which is a hypnosis-like procedure.  Other kinds of individual or group therapy may help.

5. Have you had many patients who have experienced depression because of their PTSD?

Depression co-occurs really commonly, so lots of patients have both.

6.  On average, how long does PTSD usually last? Is it a long-term thing or is it a short-term thing?

It tends to be longer term.

7. Does PTSD last longer without treatment?

It definitely lasts longer without treatment.

I hope this helps some — good luck with your project!

Estelle Toby Goldstein, MD

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