PTSD has likely existed throughout human history. During World War I, it was known as “shell shock” and was first thought to affect only soldiers.
PTSD was officially recognized as a mental health disorder in 1980. Researchers believe that the changes to body and mind that occur in PTSD reflect an attempt of the system to protect the person from further experiences of danger. Anyone who has survived a deeply disturbing experience of any kind can develop PTSD symptoms.
PTSD is characterized by vivid, intrusive memories of the precipitating event, hypervigilance and hyper-reactivity to possible threats, nightmares, and mood disturbances. Those suffering from PTSD often report feeling anxious or scared even in the absence of danger, as if it could strike at any time.
The condition may manifest in anxiety-like symptoms, emotional numbness or dysphoria, anger and aggression, or some combination of those states. It can feel like the normal stress response is locked into permanent overdrive, and those with PTSD often find it difficult to function normally in everyday life.