Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder
It’s normal for survivors of sexual violence to experience feelings of anxiety, stress, or fear. If these feelings become severe, last more than a few weeks, or interrupt your day-to-day life, it might be a condition known as post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).
What is PTSD?
Post-traumatic stress disorder is an anxiety disorder that can result from a traumatic event. You may have heard the term used in relation to the military, but it can apply to survivors of any type of trauma, including sexual violence. Survivors might experience uncharacteristic feelings of stress, fear, anxiety, and nervousness—and this is perfectly normal. With PTSD, these feelings are extreme, can cause you to feel constantly in danger, and make it difficult to function in everyday life.
While all survivors react differently, there are three main symptoms of PTSD:
- Re-experiencing: feeling like you are reliving the event through flashbacks, dreams, or intrusive thoughts
- Avoidance: intentionally or subconsciously changing your behavior to avoid scenarios associated with the event or losing interest in activities you used to enjoy
- Hyper-arousal: feeling “on edge” all of the time, having difficulty sleeping, being easily startled, or prone to sudden outbursts
Where can I get help and more information?
Living with PTSD can be challenging, but learning more about the condition can encourage you to ask questions and find the help you need. You can learn more about PTSD at the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) or Mayo Clinic.
To speak with someone who is trained to help, call the National Sexual Assault Hotline at 800.656.HOPE (4673) or chat online at online.rainn.org.
Please note that content on this site does not constitute medical advice and RAINN is not a medical expert. If after reading this information you have further questions, please contact a local healthcare professional or hospital.