The Facts and Fictions of PTSD Statistics
In recent years, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) has received increased attention from health professionals and the general public. Although historically associated with military personnel and people in high-risk jobs (EMTs, Firefighters), it has become more commonly known that PTSD can affect anyone who experiences a traumatizing event. In this article, we will present statistics on PTSD and look more in depth at PTSD stats on combat veterans, victims of sexual abuse, and PTSD in children and teens.
But First... What is PTSD?
"PTSD, or Post-traumatic Stress Disorder, is a mental disorder that can occur following the experience or witnessing of life-threatening events such as military combat, natural disasters, terrorist incidents, serious accidents, or physical or sexual assault in adult or childhood."
In the U.S, it is thought that 70% of Americans have experienced at least one traumatic event. Of these individuals, 20% (roughly 44.7 million Americans) have previously struggled, or are currently struggling, with the symptoms of PTSD. At any given time, 8% of Americans are living with PTSD. Symptoms of PTSD include:
Intrusive memories: Upsetting dreams or reoccurring flashbacks about the event.
Avoidance: Avoiding the memory of the event, or places and people that remind you of the event.
Negative changes in thinking or mood: Feeling numb or sad, having low self-esteem, and feeling hopeless about the future.
Changes in emotional reactions: Irritable, angry outbursts, feeling guilty or ashamed, and/or being easily frightened.
Reliance on substances such as alcohol or drugs.
PTSD and High-Risk Careers
Many individuals have a career in which they inevitably experience more traumatic events than the general population. Below are some careers with the highest rates of PTSD:
Military Personnel: Many soldiers develop PTSD after returning from combat. The estimates vary widely depending on the type of conflict (see below for more details), but are often estimated to be between 10% and 31%.
Police Officers: Development of PTSD in police officers varies widely depending on the officer's daily duties if they have had to use their firearm in the line of duty, and the crime rate of the city they serve. Some studies estimate 15-18% of police officers suffer from PTSD. Rates are difficult to obtain because unfortunately many departments do not have adequate resources for officers and many officers are not aware that they have symptoms.
Firefighters: The prevalence of PTSD among firefighters has been estimated at 20%, possibly higher for volunteer firefighters. There is a hotline specifically for firefighters who feel like they may be suffering from PTSD or other mental illnesses such as depression or anxiety: 1-888-731-FIRE (3473).
Emergency Medical First Responders: These first responders are often called to the scene of gruesome car accidents, homicides, and other accidents, and often witness death. Many of these individuals suffer burnout from long shifts and additional stressors. estimate that roughly 20% of EMS professionals show all or most of the symptoms of PTSD.
PTSD and Suicide
For some, PTSD symptoms can be unbearable at times which makes the individual feel like they will never be rid of their symptoms. Regardless of pre-existing conditions, the risk of suicide is higher among those who have PTSD compared to individuals without PTSD. For combat veterans, possibly 5,000 - 8,000 suicides occur annually. Although higher than rates among the general public, this is not astronomically higher like once previously thought. There is evidence that more police officer deaths occur as a result of suicide than in the line of duty.
IF YOU OR A LOVED ONE IS CONSIDERING COMMITTING SUICIDE, PLEASE CALL ATHE SUICIDE HOTLINE AT