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Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)


Living through a traumatic experience is difficult enough, but people with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) often feel like the anguish will never end.

PTSD is a serious mental health condition and anxiety disorder that develops after witnessing or experiencing psychological trauma or a terrifying event. PTSD can also occur after learning that a traumatic event happened to a close family member or close friend.

People who suffer from post-traumatic stress may experience extreme stress or fear even when they’re not in any actual danger. PTSD can interfere with relationships, work and social interactions. It’s a challenging and overwhelming condition – but it can be managed with the right treatment.

Post-traumatic stress disorder comes in two forms: chronic and acute. Acute stress disorder is a form of PTSD that occurs within one month following a trauma. Complex PTSD (C-PTSD), on the other hand, is a condition characterized by chronic post-traumatic stress that persists for months or years following the event.

Signs & Symptoms

There are a variety of signs and symptoms of PTSD. The characteristics of post-traumatic stress disorder vary from person to person, but PTSD symptoms generally fall into one of four categories.

  • Re-experiencing the event: this involves having dreams and nightmares related to the event, recurrent involuntary memories of the event, traumatic flashbacks, anxious reactions to reminders of the event and/or hallucinations
  • Avoidance: this symptom often manifests as pulling back from close emotional contact with family and friends, creating distance from people or places that are reminders of the event, experiencing memory loss about the event, or having feelings of detachment or emotional numbness
  • Negative Thoughts and Feelings: this symptom involves having trouble remembering parts of the event(s); negative beliefs about yourself, others, and the world; thoughts about the cause of the event(s); negative feelings (guilt, shame, anger, sadness); loss of interest in activities; and difficulty feeling positive emotions
  • Hyperarousal: hyperarousal can include anger and irritability, difficulty falling or staying asleep, being easily startled or having trouble concentrating

There may also be physical signs of post-traumatic stress disorder such as:

  • Stomach and digestive problems
  • Chest pain
  • Headaches
  • Dizziness

Additionally, people with PTSD may turn to alcohol or drugs to numb their feelings or avoid their thoughts. Alcohol abuse and drug addiction can become coexisting conditions along with PTSD.

PTSD Risk Factors

People of all ages can suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder. Your PTSD risk may increase if you have relatives who suffer from PTSD, stress disorders or other trauma disorders, but there are many other factors that can increase your chance of developing this condition.

People with dangerous professions – such as members of the armed forces and medical first responders – face a higher risk of PTSD due to their increased exposure to potentially dangerous and traumatic situations.

Many different types of traumatic events may lead to PTSD, including:

  • Sexual assault
  • Physical assault
  • Childhood abuse and neglect
  • Being threatened with violence or harm, including car crashes or natural disasters
  • Participating in or witnessing combat

If you have other mental health problems, such as depression or anxiety disorder, you’re also at greater risk of developing PTSD.

PTSD Treatment

If you or someone you know is struggling with post-traumatic stress disorder, Aurora offers compassionate care at a variety of inpatient and outpatient PTSD treatment centers.

Once you receive a PTSD diagnosis, treatment may include:

  • PTSD counseling
  • Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT)
  • Eye Movement Densensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR)
  • Medication

See our eastern Wisconsin locations below to find a PTSD treatment program near you.


Aurora Psychiatric Hospital, a behavioral health and PTSD treatment center located in Wauwatosa, WI, has programs specifically designed to help individuals handle overwhelming fear and anxiety.

Our adult intensive outpatient program and our partial hospitalization program can help you create tools to manage your condition and return to a fulfilling life.

We also offer outpatient and partial hospitalization treatment at our satellite hospital locations in Milwaukee, Muskego and Sheboygan.

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