How Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) Affects Older Adults

Woman with arm around an elderly woman

Recognizing Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) Awareness Month 

Understanding the Signs of PTSD in Seniors

June is Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) Awareness Month. When you hear a reference to PTSD, what do you think of? Many of us think of veterans who have participated in active combat. While some veterans do experience this disorder, PTSD can affect a variety of individuals that have experienced trauma—including older adults. 

PTSD is defined by the National Institute of Mental Health as “a disorder that develops in some people who have experienced a shocking, scary, or dangerous event.” According to the National Center for PTSD, 6 out of every 100 people will have PTSD at some point. About 12 million adults in the U.S. have PTSD during any given year. The prevalence of current PTSD in adults over the age of 60 is 1.5 percent to 4 percent—lower than rates among middle-aged and young adults. 

While the prevalence is low, it is still important to recognize the signs of PTSD in seniors: It could occur from being involved in a serious automobile accident, experiencing a natural disaster, dealing with a serious injury, experiencing childhood trauma, and many other types of traumatic events. These are some of the most common symptoms:

  • Experiencing intense disturbing thoughts and feelings long after the event is over
  • Reliving the event through flashbacks or nightmares
  • Feeling sadness, fear, or anger
  • Feeling detached or estranged from others
  • Avoiding social situations
  • Having strong negative reactions to loud noises or an accidental touch

If you or a loved one is experiencing any of these symptoms of PTSD, we encourage you to reach out to your physician as soon as possible for potential treatment.


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